Team Sky may have missed out on victory in the opening team time trial at the Giro del Trentino, but the British squad showed it is ready to control the race and ride to set up Richie Porte for overall victory by finishing just fractions of a second behind stage winners Bora Argon 18.
Local rider Cesare Benedetti of Bora Argon 18 claimed the fuchsia leader’s jersey but Porte is just 11 hundredths of a second behind, and eager to show himself as a real contender for the upcoming Giro d'Italia in this warm-up race.
"It was close… It didn’t actually feel that fast but to be so close to the win is a good. Most of this team will be doing the Giro d’Italia with me and so I think we’ve got some other strong guys to come in, so it’s a good sign," Porte said at the finish before riding back to his hotel at Riva del Garda.
"It’s good to be back racing gain. It’s only three weeks out since Catalunya but after being stuck on a volcano for 12 days, you certainly felt that first kilometre. Coming down from altitude less than a week ago means I’m not sure where I’m at. I felt a little sluggish today but I’m looking forward to testing my legs tomorrow on the first hilly stage."
Stage two of the Giro del Trentino is the first of three mountain stages and includes the 12km Passo Santa Barbara before finishing on a five kilometre climb to Brentonico in the mountains overlooking the northern shores of Lake Garda. Porte will no longer be locked in a duel with fellow Giro d’Italia favourite Fabio Aru (Astana) but is looking forward to heading into the mountains.
"It’s a nice finish tomorrow (Wednesday). The penultimate climb is probably the hardest climb of the whole race, so it should be a good race," Porte said.
"It’s actually a pity that Aru isn’t here. I’d have liked to have raced him to be honest but there are still some strong guys here. People like Pozzovivo, Peraud and Bardet. Diego Rosa (Astana) also impressed me in Catalunya. He was probably stronger than Aru in that race. It’s going to be interesting racing."
Back to his best after a difficult 2014
Porte is on a roll this season after a difficult 2014 season when a virus took him out of Tirreno-Adriatico and forced him to miss the Giro d’Italia. He rode the Tour de France but suffered in the mountains and finished 23rd. The Tour de France was the last race Porte managed to finish in 2014 but used his long off-season to make a full recovery and rediscover his determination and self-discipline.
He started off the 2015 season by winning the highly competitive Australian national time trial championships. He was also second overall at the Tour Down Under before winning Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. His consistency and big-race results means he remains the leader of the UCI WorldTour rankings.
Team Sky has again named Porte as team leader for the Giro d’Italia and the Tasmanian is looking forward to challenging for the pink jersey.
"Last year was a shock to me. It wasn’t totally my fault that the season turned out as it did. But I’m much more motivated coming into this season. I’ve had a few lifestyle changes, like getting engaged, and also staying in at night during the winter in Australia instead of getting pissed every second night…"
"I’ve got the motivation back and I’m really looking forward to the Giro d’Italia. It’s a big opportunity for me. I’m going to try to take it with both hands."