Richie Porte opened his BMC Racing account with a three peat on Willunga Hill at the Tour Down Under to slot into second place on the general classification behind Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). Porte made his race-winning move just outside the flame rouge, putting the majority of riders in the diminished front group into difficulty. A move several metres prior from Rohan Dennis set the platform for Porte who rode Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Michael Woods (Cannondale) off his wheel to claim his first win of the season
“Full credit to Rohan, he said it yesterday that he didn’t have great legs and he’s willing to scarified which is great with him being South Australian it being his home race. I was so happy for that, he’s been a brilliant teammate this week and to be honest, the whole BMC crew has been fantastic. It’s not easy to change teams like this, coming from a fantastic team like Sky, but BMC have really supported and embraced me and I am really happy.”
12-months prior Porte’s ride up the three-kilometre climb was matched by then rival Dennis who held on to claim the overall by two seconds. Porte could theoretically make up nine seconds on tomorrow's street circuit but having admitted he ‘couldn’t sprint out of site on a dark night', the 30-year-old is content with second overall as he looks to his bigger goals later in the season.
“Obviously I lost eight seconds there yesterday with a tiny split in the field which is just one of those things,” he said. “If I finish second tomorrow, I’d rather finish by nine seconds to Simon rather than two seconds.”
Last year Porte’s ambition was to be peaking in May for the Giro d’Italia, whereas in 2016 he is looking to challenge for the Tour de France and therefore his physical condition isn’t yet at the same level,
“I definitely came in here underdone, I stayed in Europe to until Christmas eve and I am really happy with how it’s gone. I am not in fantastic shape just yet so it’s a good stepping stone into what is probably he most important season in my career,” he explained. “I don’t know what my race weight is at the moment of anything like that, I haven’t been too much on regime just yet. It’s always so nice to win a race so early in a season and I only take confidence out of this.”
While Porte was celebrating the team’s first WorldTour win of 2016, defending champion Dennis rolled across the line in 28th place to slip down the general classification to 16th, explaining his condition and form isn’t quite that of 12-months prior.
"I spoke to Allan [Peiper] and I spoke to Richie and I said I don't think I'm going to be able to hold on to third. Our best bet was to put the leadership with Richie for at least a stage win here and whatever comes with that,” Dennis said.
"I probably am not in the same shape as last year. I think that slight different lead up with the hour record last year maybe gave me a bit more punch. I'm fitter in some ways but not in others."