A well-earned rest following both a Giro d'Italia and Tour de France campaign has allowed Richie Porte to focus specifically on his preparation for the UCI Road World Championship elite men's time trial event in Copenhagen today. The 26-year-old will line up with Jack Bobridge for Australia on the 46.4 kilometer course.
Porte struggled through the early part of the season with allergies before taking on the grand tours and then the Tour of Denmark and Paris – Bruxelles for around 80 days of racing while Bobridge sits at half that, with his last appearance in Denmark in August. With the pair due to leave their respective teams at the end of the season, racing opportunity has waned, but Australian Men's Road Coordinator Matt White explained he had to treat the situation as a positive.
"Both of them have been able to prepare very specifically," he optimistically told Cyclingnews. "I expect some really good things, especially out of Richie. Taking Jack to the worlds as a second TT guy is an experience and this is another step up. Down the track we're expecting that it's possible for him to get medals out of it in a few years time. He's still young, but I wanted to take him to the worlds. He was very motivated."
Over the past month, Porte has been on the time trial bike motor pacing in the mountains behind Nice in order to prepare for the two-lap, flat course around the heart of Copenhagen.
"It has been quite specific and something I haven't really done ever before so it will be interesting to see if it pays off," he said of his preparation.
While the parcours suits the talented Tasmanian technically, he admits that it could actually be a little harder.
"It's not a tailor-made course for me this year but I think I can do well on it anyhow so I'm looking forward to it," Porte explained. He finished fourth in Geelong last year.
As for just how well Porte will go this week, White wasn't holding back, firm in the belief that he can continue Australia's good fortune at the world championships.
"Richie realistically is a medal prospect," White admitted. "After the amount of racing that he's had this year, he needed a rest. He's had that rest and he's very fresh mentally and very, very motivated for a big result. If you're hungry and you're mentally ready to push in September it goes a long way at this time of the year."
Porte's lone win of the 2011 season came on the much-shorter time trial stage at the Tour of Denmark, where he bettered Saxo Bank – SunGard teammate Gustav Larsson and Sky's Alex Dowsett by 10 and 17 seconds respectively.
In May, he was fourth in the final stage time trial at the Giro d'Italia behind David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo), Alex Rasmussen (HTC-Highroad) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard).
Earlier in the year Porte was third in the Paris – Nice time trial, and second in the race against the clock at both the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and Tour de Romandie. While the results go a long way to suggesting that Porte has indeed found his specialty, the rider himself is keen to steer clear of any such intimations.
"I wouldn't want to be pigeon-holed as just a time trial specialist. Certainly the results, the more I go on this year, do indicate that I am a time trialist. Next year we're going to work towards, what would you say, un-pigeon-holing me," he told Cyclingnews about part of his motivation for joining Sky for 2012.
When it comes to his rivals for the podium in Copenhagen today, Porte believes Switzerland's four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara, Germany's Tony Martin and Great Britain's David Millar – the same three which made up the 2010 podium - will thrive on the fast course.
"They've got the power but I can make up with that by being so aerodynamic," he said. "I guess the weather will come into a bit as well. It's fine for me if it's a little bit cold. Climatically it's a little bit different to where I live in Monaco but I don't mind a rainy day.
"Last year I was fourth so it would be nice to go one better, maybe more," he continued. "It would be a dream to go on the podium but taking everything into consideration with the course, I'd be happy if I could do as good a ride as I can and if I got fifth or whatever I still wouldn't be disappointed, I'd just know that wasn't the time trial for me."