IN­TER­VIEW: RICHIE PORTE

The yel­low jer­sey prospect tells us about the steps he has taken to boost his chances

Procycling - - Contents - WRITER SAM DAN­SIE POR­TRAIT CHRIS AULD

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.”

PRE­PARE WELL

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?”

RE­MOVE STRESS

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

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