After a disappointing campaign in 2014, Richie Porte (Team Sky) is looking to bounce back next season. The Australian has confirmed that the Tour Down Under will be his first major objective in 2015 but that his overall ambitions will hinge on his ability to remain healthy.
Porte started this year in fine form with a stage win and fourth overall at the Tour Down Under. The 29-year-old followed up with second overall at the Ruta del Sol and fifth on the first key mountain stage at Tirreno-Adriatico. Since then the Australian has been plagued with illness and injury, leading to inconsistent results and form. He suffered through the Tour de France in July, later discovering that he had been hit with a bout of pneumonia during the race.
Having called a halt to his season in August, Porte has focused on steadily returning to health.
"I've had a brilliant off-season so far. I ended my racing season in August and went on a month-long course of antibiotics. There was a couple of lifestyle changes too, like having a girlfriend, and my motivation has improved as my health and fitness have gone up," Porte told Cyclingnews.
"Looking back at this year, it was disaster but it's hard to put a finger on where it went wrong and the exact single problem. I'm confident that after a month of antibiotics I'm back to health and over the pneumonia that I had at the Tour de France."
Porte and his Team Sky companions recently returned from their first post-season get-together on the English coast. It was a chance for the riders to catch up and assess their seasons and although the routes for the first two Grand Tours have been released, Porte confirmed that Sky's priorities and leaders for the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France will not be confirmed until the end of the year.
"All I know at the moment is that I don't want to have a repeat of this season. Obviously I'm looking toward the Giro at this early stage but trying to actually make it happen rather than getting sick like I did this year," he said.
Much could of course depend on Chris Froome and his desires and objectives. As soon as the Tour de France route was revealed the 2013 winner announced on his website that the Giro d'Italia route could be the race that suited his skillset better. Sky has yet to fully weigh in on the three Grand Tour challenge but Froome's snap judgement at least suggests that Team Sky are looking at their options.
"Nothing is concrete at the moment and a lot depends on what Chris wants to do next. You look at the Giro and it's a better-suited race for him and there's no reason why I wouldn't do the Giro but it's all talk until December because that's when the riders and team sit down and really discuss race plans. We'll have to wait and see."
Porte was meant to lead the team at this year's Giro d'Italia but was forced to abandon those dreams due to illness ruining the first half of his season. At this stage he is focused on returning to racing at full strength and has added that there are a number of week-long races that he would also consider targeting, should he have the opportunity to do so.
"I guess for me it's not just about picking between the Giro and the Tour. There are races like Paris-Nice and Romandie, where I'd like opportunities. I'm not going to get too hung up about which Grand Tour I do. It's about making sure I get off to a good start to the season at the Tour Down Under and then getting back to winning ways. The key for me is to keep my health."