As anticipation builds for the arrival of Chris Froome in Australia, one thing Richie Porte says locals will not see of the British 2013 Tour de France champion during his stay – that is, him cycling with Porte on one of his famed off-season marathon training rides.
Porte, 29 and back in Australia from his European base in Monaco with the health issues that impeded his season this year behind him, laughed when Cyclingnews asked if he would take Froome on a marathon ride like what he and fellow Tasmanian professional Cameron Wurf did on January 30.
That outing on Porte's birthday was an epic, as Wurf's post ride data clearly showed. Starting at 6am and finishing in darkness, the 13 and a half hour ride through Porte's favourite home training roads in the countryside outside Launceston totalled 403km with an elevation gain of 4,500m.
"No 400km rides …" Porte replied without pausing for thought this week from Launceston where he and his Sky team leader Froome will race in the Stan Seijka Launceston Cycling Classic on December 6-7.
The signing of Porte and Froome is a coup for local organisers of the two day event that is made up of a Kermesse at Symmons Plains on the Saturday and the Stan Seijka Classic criterium on the Sunday evening in Launceston's central business district.
Porte is extremely excited about the buzz that will sweep Launceston with Froome's presence. But he is also quick to remind cycling fans who are planning on heading there to watch the popular event to not expect too much from him and Froome in the saddle. He says it is still early season and the style of racing is so not their forte.
What to expect … realistically
The men's event at Launceston will include riders from some of the top domestic teams like Avanti, Drapac and Budget Forklifts. The women's event will include Orica-AIS and Honda Wiggle riders, as well as Australian criterium champion Sarah Roy from Roxsolt and local stars Macey Stewart, Georgia Baker and Amy Cure.
With many of the top local riders experienced in hard and fast tight circuit racing, Porte and Froome will certainly not be in store for an easy ride to the finish line.
When Porte was asked how he believed Froome might fare, especially in the Sunday criterium, he said: "I don't think there is much advice he can give or I can give him.
"I think it is a little bit like unchartered territory for the both of us," Porte said. "Obviously I did a bit of racing in Australia in those [type of] races back in the day.
"But it's also early season. I remember [the now retired] Stuart O'Grady saying that about the 'Bay Crits' [now Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic series in] in January … it's too early to be kicking out in corners. And it's like that a little in December.
"For me, it's going to be absolutely brilliant having your mate and a guy who has also won the Tour de France coming down to do the event and stay on [to train.]"
Porte says he does not know exactly when Froome, who recently married his partner Michelle Cound in South Africa, will arrive in Tasmania – or when he will leave.
But he plans some good training as well as racing with his mate and team leader.
"There'll be some good training. Being a proud Tasmanian, 'Tassie' has some of the best training roads in the world," Porte said. "I'm keen to get out and show him that."
A strong season kick-off …
Porte is again preparing for a strong early season, starting on January 11 with the Australian road championships at Buninyong, Victoria in which he placed third behind this year's winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Cadel Evans (BMC).
He will then race in the Tour Down Under in South Australia – in which he was fourth this year and won the 'Queen' stage to the top of Old Willunga Hill - from January 17-25. He may also possibly back-up for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Victoria on February 1 which will be the official retirement race for Evans.
"I think we are doing that," Porte said of the CEGORR, adding that if Sky do race it and he is named for it, he will return to Tasmania from the Tour Down Under first.
Porte's start in Evans' adieu as a professional racer may yet to be confirmed, but there is no doubt about his eagerness to get stuck in next season - nor about his confidence.
"I think I'm up for a big year next year … I'm right where I need to be," Porte said.
Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media)