Richie Porte Q&A: ‘I am very much ready for the next chapter in my life’

As the curtain closes on Richie Porte's professional career, he caught up with Rupert Guinness to reflect on the journey.

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Next week Australia’s Richie Porte will round out his 13-year professional cycling career when he races in the Tour of Britain. As he prepared for his ‘last dance’ on the pedals at his European base in Monaco, Porte caught up with Rupert Guinness to share how he feels being on the cusp of the next chapter in his life.

Rupert Guinness: You are about to go into the last week of your career as a professional cyclist and your final race, the Tour of Britain. Will you be focusing on a result or reminiscing?

Richie Porte: It will probably be more about reminiscing. I had plans to go in good shape and have a real good go at it, but life has sort of got in the way a little bit – one thing or another. I just keep getting sick, and having two kids at home does take precedence over riding my bike. That’s not to say I haven’t been riding my bike …

I had a good chat with a mate of mine, [former professional cyclist] Simon Gerrans, and he said, “It is going to be hard after the Giro d’Italia to motivate yourself.” But for me, going into the Tour of Britain with a young guy like Tom Pidcock who wants to win the race – my goal is to be there and to help him and try and enjoy my last race.

You turned professional in 2010 and had a great season, including a spell in the Giro pink jersey. When you look back on those days, what comes to mind about the journey?

I don’t think anybody has an easy journey to turning professional. I don’t think there is anybody in the peloton who has had it gifted to them on a silver spoon. But when I look back to those days and the struggle I had … I went through the Italian amateur system and it was pretty hard. So then to go and take the pink jersey in my first ever Grand Tour was absolutely incredible.

But at the same time – I have loved my job and everything, but I am very much ready for the next chapter in my life. It has become a job and there is just not that much that I am going to miss about it to be honest. I think that is a good thing to be at, at that point. I am ready to just have a normal life.

In cycling there is so much emphasis, fairly or not, on the Tour de France and a rider is often judged by their performance in the Tour. You’ve had a fabulous podium (third overall in 2020) and some good performances, but if you look at your career and other races, you have some fantastic victories to your name – Criterium de Dauphine, Tour de Suisse, Paris-Nice to name a few.

Last year I won an award from the TIS [Tasmanian Institute of Sport] Athlete of the Year and they were transfixed on a podium at the Tour, but I had won the Dauphine that year as well … for me that was probably the biggest race (win) of my career. That or Paris-Nice or Tour du Suisse.

A Tour podium is incredible, but to win those races is something really special. It is all about the Tour, but some of those other races that I lined up in my earlier years, and then to eventually win them feels like a real achievement.

You have had a number of setbacks in your career too, including at the Tour, including some crashes. How have you been able to recover from a setback, to where you can cast aside the obvious disappointment and then move on?

My setback came with me crashing out of the 2018 Tour at the prime of my career really. I was going as well as I ever have. But I didn’t really have that hang up that [it happened when] I was in my best career form … It was more about coming back from a crash. When you are looking at a rock wall at 70 km/h and choosing what you are going to do and all the stuff with that …

“Oh, he is a bad descender.” But the people who say that don’t know what happened, that obviously I had a mechanical issue. Things like that have probably been the biggest to get over because it’s not easy. But you just have to get back up and dust yourself off … It’s not different to any other job.

For me the biggest thing is when people in general lose loved ones. You can never compare a bike race to that. There is always someone much worse off than you.

You are not doing the Road World Championships in Wollongong. Australia seems to have a lot of depth for the championships in all categories. How do you feel about the state of Australian cycling? Is Australia in a good place?

I think so. This year we have seen Jai Hindley win the Giro. My teammate [Richard Carapaz] was racing him but I was over the moon for him. He is a great guy. We also have Caleb Ewan who is the quickest sprinter on his day. It’s a shame he doesn’t have the team to back him up. There is Michael Matthews with that fantastic Tour stage win to Mende. It’s been great to have Gerry and Val Ryan throwing money into the sport like they do [with the Bike-Exchange team]. Then there are the girls with Amanda Spratt … a brilliant career and now she has gone to Trek.

It’s definitely exciting times … Then there are the young guys. Luke Plapp, I have got to know as my teammate. There is the next Cadel Evans riding around out there to hopefully win the Tour sometime soon.

When the world titles are on, you will have just finished your last race. You may be watching them on television?

Of course. One thing I have enjoyed this year is being on the couch watching the hectic stages of the Tour and not having to be a part of it. Obviously, I was riding with guys who were going to do the Tour and you hear about the stressful stages.

I am at that stage in my life now [where I’m] watching someone else take the pressure and stress. Hopefully we can have a good Aussie World Championships.

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