INTERVIEW: RICHIE PORTE
The yellow jersey prospect tells us about the steps he has taken to boost his chances
WIN TO BUILD CONFIDENCE
The Tasmanian turned up at the Tour Down Under in January extremely lean and very keen. Wins in both hill-top finishes in Paracombe and Willunga meant that he won the GC comprehensively. Back in Europe, after two stormy days on stage 1 and 2 at Paris-Nice, Porte dropped out of the GC, which was a “disaster”, but he still rallied to win the key mountain stage on top of the Col de la Couillole. In May, he won the Tour de Romandie for the first time in his career.
Richie Porte tells Procycling, “Last year, when I first came to BMC, I took the approach of building up through the season. This year, my coach David Bailey said let’s win races on the way to the Tour because you get more confidence out of winning rather than just building all the time, so in that respect it’s gone well. “To be honest, your season’s success is judged on the Tour, so to win Romandie, the Tour Down Under or Paris-Nice and Catalunya in the past, it’s nice, but the Tour is the one where I really want to perform.
“Let me tell you about my Sunday after Romandie. It was sushi with the team and then back to the hotel room with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Then the next day we did almost 3,000m of climbs on a Tour stage recon. Then I basically had a week at home, not really watching the diet and doing the rides I wanted.”
The Australian has tweaked his build-up from previous years. In the run-up to his Giro d’Italia attempt in 2015, Porte was second at the Tour Down Under and he didn’t let up until May. He won nine races but he found it mentally draining and physically taxing. This spring, he raced less and instead of reconnoitering Tour roads before and after the Dauphiné, he finished his altitude and recces by the end of May. His ‘mid-season break’ came after
Paris-Nice and he planned to spend most of June at home.
“For me, the mental break of not having to go out and do the efforts has been what’s good about this year. I’ve been hitting the races in good form then having a mental decompression after.
“Soon, I’ll have completed all the recons we need to do. The stage finish on the Col d’Izoard at almost 2,400m is going to be pretty tricky, and you go up the Col du Vars at 2,100m first so that’s quite a solid stage in general. Going up to those kind of altitudes and finishing there is going to be hard.
“Another key stage is the one that goes up the Mont du Chat – got to be careful how you say that one – and that drops down on a really dodgy descent. In the Dauphiné we finish at the bottom of that, but in the Tour it’s 13km further on the flat to Chambéry for the finish.
“Probably they’re trying to make it as good for Romain Bardet as possible because he’s a good descender, but you’ve still got to get up the climbs in the first place to use your descending capabilities to finish it off. It’s not a conventional route, but it’s still hard enough that these climbs are going to be decisive.”
GET THE TEAM TOGETHER
At last year’s Tour, Porte was co-leader with Tejay van Garderen until the road decisvely established the hierarchy on stage 17 when the American crumbled. This year the team is built to Porte’s order and he’s got a strong idea of the spine of the team.
“I knew before the season started that my big goal was July and that I’d be the out-and-out leader, so I think it’s been easier to find the motivation to go to all the races before the Tour where the boys are all 100 per cent behind me.
“In terms of the team I think it’s going to be guys like Damiano Caruso, who was there with me last year when the sh*t hit the fan. Nicolas Roche is really starting to hit form now and he’ll probably be road captain. Then there is Alessandro De Marchi who can jump in a breakaway and if we need to use him he’ll be there. There’ll be those strong guys like Daniel Oss or Stefan Küng who have that horsepower and then Micky Schär who can do everything. And another guy is Danilo Wyss, who’s a safe wheel to follow in the sprints. Fabio Baldato has also quickly become the best director for me at this team and he really believes in me, which is really important. He’s level-headed and he’s got all sorts of war stories to keep morale up.
“I think the trend of GC teams riding at the front in sprints will continue. I mean, what are you meant to do? Be gentlemen and sit behind? Sprinters can say what they want about us getting in their way, but at the same time on the climbs they bang around getting in the way. The headlines in the first week will be the sprinters hate the GC teams and vice-versa. It’s the Tour, isn’t it?”
Last year’s Tour started badly when Porte punctured and lost almost two minutes on stage 2. While he stuck at it, the pressure got to him in the first hours afterwards. This year, he’s doing what he can to lower his stress levels in the run-up to and during the race.
“The best thing about this year is that we’ll have done all the reconning before the Dauphiné and we’ve also done a good altitude block as well, so I’ll be able to spend time at home. I’m happy there because everything’s so simple. You can control your diet and it’s easy to relax before going into the pressure cooker. The main thing for me is that I don’t want any bad luck and I don’t want to get sick either.
“As you get a bit older you deal with the pressure better. But there are times when I’m riding along and think, ‘Jeez, I’m doing the Tour de France! I used to stay up till midnight watching this back home on TV, now here I am doing it.’
“It never feels like you’re cruising in the Tour peloton. It’s always stressful until you get across the line. Then I think there are ways of minimising stress after that. I don’t do Twitter - my wife Gemma will do it for me if I want to say something. There’s a lot more press around obviously, but I definitely find switching off from social media helps.
“The Tour is the most stressful environment imaginable. In five or six years’ time I’ll probably be happily looking back on it.”
The best thing this year is that we’ll have done all the reconning before the Dauphiné so I’ll be able to spend time at home
The year got o f to a good start with Porte winning the Tour Down Under in January
Porte won the Tour de Romandie for the irst time in his career this May