Due to an extended break from racing, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) has had several weeks to watch his Tour de France rivals in action, but next month the Australian returns to competition at Paris-Nice, where he will go up against Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) for the first time this year.
Porte opened his 2017 account in fine fettle in January with two stage wins and the overall title at the Tour Down Under. The win marked his first GC success in the race, but it was the manner of his comprehensive victory that stood out. He won both hilltop finishes and was head-and-shoulders above the opposition.
Bar the Cadel Evans races, Porte has spent the last few weeks training in Tasmania and he only returned to Europe last week, with Paris-Nice his next target.
"Tour Down Under was a big goal but I want to win Paris-Nice. It’s a race I’m easily motivated for. There’s no time trial up Col d’Èze but we’ve still got the one to Mont-Brouilly. I wouldn’t say that I’m in my top condition yet but I still think that there’s time,” he told Cyclingnews from his base in Monaco.
Porte’s season is focused on the Tour de France, and he will race sparingly in the build up with Paris-Nice followed by Catalunya, Tour of Romandie, Criterium du Dauphine and then the Tour. Considering he took several months off after crashing out in the Olympic Games in August of last year, it is a relatively light schedule when compared to a number of his rivals.
That said, Porte and BMC Racing go to each of his 2017 races with the desire to win.
"There’s always pressure with the team," he adds.
"Whether you arrive at a race and the team says it’s a goal or not, it’s always a goal. I love Paris-Nice and it’s a stage race that I’d love to try and win for a third time."
Porte’s recent break from racing has allowed him to switch off but he has still kept tabs on some of his closest Tour rivals. Former teammate Chris Froome was unable to retain his Herald Sun Tour victory from last year, while Contador narrowly missed out on victory at the Ruta del Sol.
"With Froome you don’t know but he tends to come out swinging around Romandie," Porte said.
"Alberto is clearly super motivated with his new team and he was pretty good at Ruta del Sol. Then with Bardet, I’ve not seen much of him yet but I’m sure I will at Paris-Nice. With Chris, though, you can’t really read too much in what happened at the Sun Tour. It was January and I’m sure that him and Tim Kerrison will have a plan in mind. He’s still the man to beat come the Tour de France.
"As for me, I’ve had two weeks of not doing too much. I’ve taken it easy but that’s been good because I feel a lot fresher now that I’ve started training again. I still rode my bike and did a bit of swimming but just didn’t have such a strict regime with the diet."
Diet and weight are two key elements for any professional rider, and Porte believes that he still has a few kilos to lose before July. He looked as lean as he ever has done at the Tour Down Under last month, but the Australia admitted that he has been lighter in the past.
"People say I was lighter this year, but I wasn’t. The scales don’t lie, and in 2015 I was a kilo lighter than I was this year. I don’t really weigh myself too much, but obviously if you look at pictures of myself from my neo-pro years I’ve lost weight, but that comes with learning how about your body and how to diet. I’m good at that now. I’m still a good two kilos off my Tour weight. I think I rode it last year at around 58 kilos, so there’s still a bit more to come off.”