Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) has endured a difficult start to his European season, with illness a consistent theme since his return from Australia. The 34-year-old has been forced to modify his campaign as a result but with the Tour of California, and the Tour de France on the horizon the Trek-Segafredo leader is determined to put the last few months behind him.
Porte began his season in customary fashion at the Tour Down Under. A stage win and second overall were followed by fifth in the Herald Sun Tour but he left his native Australia with a cold and struggled to make an impression at the UAE Tour and Tour of Catalunya after skipping Pars-Nice. Another bug followed at the end of March but after a brief training block in Girona, Spain he is back on the schedule.
"The team changed my programme, which was nice but then things didn't really go to plan at Catalunya. It's still early days but I went into the race with good form but then on stage 3 I just had nothing. I don't really know why I've kept getting sick. I don't know what it's down to but a lot of guys have been down with injuries and illnesses. I just need some consistency and to get healthy. Hopefully, I'm on my way to that now," Porte told Cyclingnews from his home in Monaco.
"The plan, to be totally honest, is just about getting healthy now. I was at a disadvantage going into Catalunya because I was going up against guys who had some hard racing in their legs after Paris-Nice and Tirreno."
Rivals on best form
While Porte has been struggling, a number of his potential stage race and Grand Tour rivals have been flying since the start of the season. Primoz Roglic was unstoppable at the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico, while Catalunya saw Miguel Angel Lopez hold off challenges from Adam Yates and Egan Bernal.
Porte puts their strong form down to the fact that their winters were undisturbed, and that they appear to be showing up at early season races with close to their best condition.
"It just seems like this year the level is just incredible," Porte added.
"I think that's because we had a good winter and guys didn't really lose that much, but so many of the peloton have also been at altitude already. Everyone is super lean and you notice that in races when you get there. The speeds were so fast, with those young guys, the Yates brothers, Bernal, and the others. they're absolutely flying, and so are their teams."
Despite the early setbacks, Porte is confident that he can find his form in the coming months.
He was signed by Trek-Segafredo to win week-long stage races in the build-up to July and with the Tour of California and either the Criterium du Dauphine or Tour de Suisse on his programme, that still remains the goal ahead of the Tour de France. Porte believes that his slow start to the year could become a benefit later in the season, as he questioned - from his own experience - as to whether some of his rivals could hold their current condition for such a long period of time.
"On one side I'll have to take the beating that I took there on the chin. It was a hard week of racing, it always is at Catalunya," he said.
"It's one of the hardest week-long races there is, but at the same time, these guys are going to have to try and hold onto that all the way to the Giro or the Tour. That's not an easy thing to do and I think that I've made that mistake before. To be flying at Tour Down Under, win a Paris-Nice or Catalunya and then it's hard to keep that going. That's my hope."