Richie Porte, off contract with Team Sky this year, has heard and read all the comments that he should consider switching teams and join the Australian WorldTour Orica-GreenEdge team after this season.
The 29-year-old Tasmanian knows many say his opportunities at the British team will forever be limited at Sky so long as 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome remains with the squad.
He also knows that he has some unfinished work to attend to when it comes to showcasing his potential in the grand tours after health issues forced him to miss the Giro d'Italia in which he was to have lead Sky last year, and marred his chance to lead Sky at the Tour after Froome withdrew due to injuries sustained in a first week crash.
However, after a strong off-season of training on his home roads in Tasmania since November, Porte believes he is fully prepared to showcase his full potential – beginning with the Australian road championships in Victoria this week in which he is down to race Thursday’s men’s elite time trial and Sunday’s men’s elite road race.
So great is his focus on reproducing the standard of results he early after he turned professional in 2010, talking up his contractual options is not on his mind – other than to stress that assumptions he might leave Sky for Orica-GreenEdge are off the mark.
Asked where he stood about his contractual future, Porte told Cyclingnews: “It depends on what happens through the season. People are always saying, ‘Why don’t you ride with GreenEdge?’ But they don’t ask is, ‘are you happy at Sky?'
"I’m really happy. I have one more year there [at Sky]. That’s not to say I’m going to stay there the rest of my career. But at the moment the support they’ve given me and the support they give all their riders is the best of any team. There are so many guys who want to come to the team. The grass isn’t always greener [on the other side]."
After the Australian road titles, Porte will race in the Tour Down Under (January 17-25) and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (February 1), but once back in Europe his race program is steered towards his first major goal of the season – the Giro d’Italia (May 9-31) in which he hopes to be granted a chance to lead Sky.
Porte said he has not had more talks about the leadership prospect with Sky principal Dave Brailsford, but was confident based on conversation he has had with the team’s head trainer Tim Kerrison who is keen to see how well Porte can race when healthy.
Asked if he had recent talks with Brailsford about leading Sky at the Giro, Porte said: “Not with Dave, but I would say it is going to happen. [His confidence is based] more from talking to Tim. He wants to see a healthy me … [and see what he can do]."
Porte said he has been following Kerrison's training off-season program to the letter, unlike past seasons when he admits he had a tendency to overload his training.
"I have been training since November. I haven't missed a day of training," Porte said. "I've been getting everything that I need to do, sticking to Tim Kerrison's program. It's a new thing for me. I always like to tag a bit extra on. It's been great training."
By Monday, Porte hopes he will have results from the Australian titles to show for it.
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)