Richie Porte surprised himself with a strong second-place finish at the Tour Down Under, and said that he didn't think overall winner Simon Gerrans was beatable. He was proud to have delivered a top result for his new team BMC Racing in Australia and now he and teammate Rohan Dennis will look for even better results this spring at Paris-Nice and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
"I didn't really expect to be second, that's the honest truth," said Porte in a team press release. "I lost eight seconds in a bit of a silly move on the stage into Victor Harbor but it didn't really matter in the end. I don't think Simon was beatable, he was incredible here. To come here and be second, and second in the time trial at Nationals, I can say that it's been quite a good summer."
Porte had a strong start to the season, placing second in the time trial to teammate Dennis at the Australian Road National Championships. At the Tour Down Under, he impressed with a stage 5 win on Willunga Hill, a race he had won three times in a row. In the end, he finished second, eight seconds down from overall winner Simon Gerrans (Orica-AIS).
"I actually felt better up there this year than I did in past years," Porte said of his win on Willunga Hill. "I was really happy with how I went. Sergio [Henao] is a fantastic climber and I think Team Sky brought him here to win the race. So to ride him off my wheel like that is a great sign."
With the first WorldTour race of the season wrapped up, Porte will turn his attention to a spring campaign that includes races like Paris-Nice and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
"The real racing starts in March … so it's nice to not have done that much training and still come away with a really good result," Porte said.
Porte’s teammate Dennis also surprised himself at the Tour Down Under, and hoped for a better overall performance before the race started. He started the race as the defending champion and wanted to win the overall title a second consecutive time, which would have made him the first rider to do so. In the end, he finished 23rd overall.
Dennis won the time trial at the Australian championships at the beginning of January and was hoping that would lead to a strong performance at the Tour Down Under.
"I was basing my form off Nationals, the time trial and road race, obviously the guys who did podium in the road race were really no where to be seen in the Tour Down Under so I need to learn not to base my form off Nationals," Dennis said, who did manage two podium places in stage 2 and stage 3.
His speed and power weren’t where he thought they would be for the opening WorldTour stage race but he is aiming for better results this spring, alongside Porte at Paris-Nice and Catalunya. He did say that his time trial-specific form is where it needs to be at the start of an Olympic season, where he hopes to contest the time trial for Australia at the games in Rio.
"I found my form over time trials is obviously a lot better in January," Dennis said. "I think maybe the work I did is more directed at getting a base than riding a threshold. I can ride at threshold for a lot longer and mostly all day but it’s those explosive efforts that [Simon] Gerrans has and Sergio Henao and Richie [Porte] has that absolutely killed me. They were at a level above me this year and I got to take my hat off to them.
"Obviously my form is still good but it’s not the same form that I had last year, it’s more of a base form and I think it’s better to start the year with a solid base than going to try and peak straight away, which is hopefully going to work out in Paris-Nice, Catalunya and then the build up to Rio and obviously make that team.
"The time trial is the big goal in Rio, that’s still the aim for 2016."