Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
This past Friday afternoon, Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) climbed his way to fourth on the queen stage of the Amgen Tour of California. While perhaps a little off what some expected of the Tasmanian, it was a solid result, and one that saw Porte ride to fifth overall by tour’s end.
As Dane Cash reports, 2019 has proven to be a tricky season for Porte thus far. Thankfully, the 34-year-old’s key objective — the Tour de France — is yet to come, and Porte’s form seems to be headed in the right direction.
A few short months ago, Richie Porte was riding high in his first race with new team Trek-Segafredo, once again nabbing the Willunga Hill stage at the Tour Down Under. Things haven’t gone Porte’s way since.
A bout with bronchitis laid Porte low after the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, and he delivered quiet rides in follow-up starts at the UAE Tour and the Volta a Catalunya. For the first season since way back in 2011, the Australian has not registered a GC podium outside of Australia through mid-May.
“It’s been an up-and-down start to the year,” Porte told CyclingTips at the Amgen Tour of California. “It started well in Down Under, but the middle of the first part of the season has been ruined by illness. It’s not really something I can control.”
Bouncing between flying form and the doctor’s office is nothing new for Porte. It seems to happen especially often in July — Porte’s long history of riding into the summer on the heels of multiple victories only to crash or fall ill in the Tour de France is well-documented. You might think Porte would be jaded by his various misfortunes, but he can take solace from recent events, with the way things have played out for other big names in the pro peloton.
“I look at someone like Geraint Thomas, who has always had bad luck as well, and he had a good run at it, and he wins the Tour,” Porte said. “I can take a little bit from him, or someone like Rohan Dennis — same thing with the time trials, and next thing he wins the Worlds.
“So hopefully … I’m not going to say ‘win it,’ but for me the dream would be to be on the podium.”
Perhaps Porte’s offseason move to Trek could have a positive impact on his results. He joined the team after three years with BMC (now CCC). Porte may still be racing in red and black on a US-registered team, but Trek sports a distinct vibe with many teammates that Porte has not ridden alongside in the past.
For now, he should be the team’s clear GC leader at the Tour de France, although rumors began to swirl last month that former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) may be headed to Trek next season. Porte said that he would welcome a Nibali move, and that while the Italian would be a deserving “number one,” Porte would still expect to have his opportunities.
At age 34, Porte acknowledges that he may be in the “twilight” of his career, but he still sees potential for Grand Tour success. After all, he’s the same age this year as a compatriot who took home the yellow jersey the year Porte made his Tour debut.
“Cadel [Evans] is the oldest guy to win the Tour* and he was 34 when he did it, so it’s getting harder and harder,” he said. “But you look at guys like Jean-Christophe Peraud, who was still in the podium [at age 37] and the podium is a great result in itself.”
As he looks ahead to the Tour de France, Porte agrees with the oddsmakers in seeing Chris Froome (Ineos) as a favorite for cycling’s biggest race.
“You look at Froomey last year, to win the Giro under that pressure and then to be on the podium in the Tour …” Porte said. “If that’s a bad year — win the Giro and third in the Tour … Everyone’s got so much to say about Froomey. He’s a competitor, but I have a lot of respect for that guy.”
For Porte, Ineos’s embarrassment of GC riches – with defending Tour champ Thomas and rising star Egan Bernal also on the roster – should only make for a more entertaining race for fans.
“Geraint’s obviously the defending champion, Froomey is the best GC rider of his generation, and then Bernal is another spanner in the works,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty funny to sit back and watch.”
In between his Tour of California campaign and his ninth run at the Tour de France, Porte will likely start the Critérium du Dauphiné. The way he sees it, races like the Tour of California and the Dauphiné are more than “tune-up” events. Porte has long been one of cycling’s best one-week racers, a fact sometimes overshadowed by his frustrations at the Tour de France. He says he is “a hundred percent” motivated to shine in the shorter stage races regardless of the way they compare to the Tour.
“I think the media and some fans who don’t understand the sport get all hung up on the Tour. Of course, yeah, it’s the biggest race, but teams and people within cycling still get excited by Paris-Nice and the Dauphine,” he said. “It’s not just a one-dimensional thing. You’re still a decent bike rider if you’re winning the weeklong races as well. It’s certainly worked well for me.”
The Tour de France, of course, remains a huge goal for Porte. With his skillset, he seems as strong a contender as any to take on Froome and Thomas in July, if he can work his way into form — and stay upright through three weeks in France.
As Porte puts it, “It’d just be nice to go to the Tour and not have anything silly go on.”