After closing out his season earlier than originally planned Richie Porte (BMC Racing) is starting to plot his 2017 campaign with another assault on the Tour Down Under likely to kick-start his season.
Porte, who finished fifth at the Tour de France, crashed out of the Olympics and chose to use his early end to the season to have his tonsils removed in the US. At the recent Tour of Britain the 31-year-old talked to Cyclingnews about his first season at BMC and his early hopes for next year.
"I’ve really only just talked about but I think, for sure, I'll do Tour Down Under. And I think that with the Paracombe stage and the Willunga it's going to be a different race to the one I've seen. Adelaide in January, it's the most relaxed and cool race we do all year. The Tour is obviously the biggest but I think that races like Tour Down Under and Tour of Britain have found their niche," Porte told Cyclingnews.
The rest of Porte's 2017 schedule is far from concrete. He will target the Tour de France in July but his build-up towards the season centrepiece has still to be decided by the rider and his BMC management. For Porte, however, the aim is to return to his winning ways and he has targeted week-long stage races.
"I'd like to do what I did last year in 2015, which was start well and win more races, like a Paris-Nice, a Romandie or a Catalunya and have a bit more confidence going into the Tour. This year the Tour, I knew that I was going in there with good condition but it would have been nice to have a few stage wins or GC wins before the Tour."
Porte moved to BMC at the start of 2016 after several seasons with Team Sky. The Australian was brought into the American outfit in order to co-lead their GC ambitions with Tejay van Garderen – the squad's longstanding leader in stage races.
The bedding-in process for Porte worked well. He won a stage in the Tour Down Under and finished second overall. He then finished third overall in Paris-Nice and fourth in Catalunya. The Tour of Romandie saw Porte abandon but he returned in July to finish fifth in the Tour.
"I didn't find it hard to come into BMC and get used to how it works. It's a good group and not that different from where I came from. We hit the ground running," he said.
In recent weeks the dynamic between Porte and van Garderen has been picked apart and analysed. The American cracked in the Tour de France and abandoned the Vuelta a Espana in the final week. He has since returned to his US base, with his team admitting to Cyclingnews earlier this month that he is in a slump.
Asked if the team will send two leaders to the Tour next year, Porte was clear in his response.
"I don't think that it's my call. I came to BMC under the understanding that there would be two leaders. Tejay and I get along just fine and it's good to have each other there. That's genuine. This year doesn't really change much because I know how the race can change if you have a bit of bad luck or a bad day. We'll see what happens, but Tejay and I talk away from the races so there's not really an issue there."
Porte has been impressed with BMC's support. He left Team Sky with the aim of finding his own opportunities at the Tour de France after several seasons of working for Chris Froome.
"For sure it gives me more confidence, but this is why I left Team Sky. I was comfortable there and I enjoyed my time, but with BMC, they backed me more than my belief in myself. They backed me to the hilt and wanted me to do well.”
BMC have strengthened in the transfer market with the signing of Porte's former Team Sky teammate Nicolas Roche. According to Porte the Irish all-rounder will bring much-needed experience to BMC, both on and off the road.
"I think with Nico we're going to get the road captain that we were missing bit this year, the guy who makes the hard calls on the road and is tactically astute," Porte said. "He's a winner in his own right but he's also one of the most experienced riders with a cool head. It's like having a Hayman, an Eisel or a Rogers with you."
With a long off-season ahead – Porte's last race was in the first week of August – there is plenty of time to recharge the batteries and build for next year. The most immediate plan for Porte, however, is to recover from his recent surgery.
"I fractured my scapula and ribs. It was going to be hard to come back from that this year but I made the decision to go to Utah with one of the team doctors to have surgery and have my tonsils and adenoids taken out. I used to get sick a lot in the races and that was stemming from that. I also had my septum straightened because I got punched years back."