After enduring a bout of gastroenteritis in the days leading up to the Vuelta a España, Richie Porte (BMC) was always likely to pay a price in the opening time trial in Malaga. The 8km test was his first race since abandoning the Tour de France on stage 9, and Porte placed 97th, 51 seconds down on stage winner and teammate Rohan Dennis.
“I think the lead up to a Grand Tour is always a little stressful and mine definitely hasn't been ideal so I am just glad to start the race really,” Porte said. “It was a pretty straightforward course with a couple of corners where you had to be a little more careful and it was a little bit slippery as there is obviously a lot of traffic on these roads normally. The climb wasn't much to worry about either.”
Porte arrived at the Tour de France among the favourites for overall victory after his triumph at the previous month’s Tour de Suisse. For the second year in succession, however, his challenge ended with a crash on stage 9, as he broke his collarbone in a fall on the road to Roubaix.
The Australian revealed his intention to ride the Vuelta shortly afterwards, but since arriving in Spain, he has suggested that his primary aim over the coming three weeks is to prepare for the mountainous World Championships in Innsbruck next month.
“I didn't feel great today but I knew that I wasn't coming into the race in my best form. The Tour de France was bitterly disappointing and it's not been a straightforward run in for me but I look forward to building on my form especially for the UCI World Championships over the next three weeks,” said Porte, who confirmed last week that he will move to Trek-Segafredo for the 2019 season.
“I know I am going to take a bit of a kicking over the first two weeks but I think I should be better in the last week. Mentally, it was hard to get over the crash in July and it wasn't easy to restart or find my momentum but I have still done some good training. I am definitely not as good as I was at the Tour but hopefully by the end, I can be in good shape. I would love to be able to take a stage win in the final week. It looks really hard on paper and that's my big motivation."