Trek-Segafredo's Richie Porte has moved up several gears in response to the announcement of a postponed and not-cancelled Tour de France, saying any competition for the remainder of this year will be "a massive bonus".
The WorldTour peloton has trained without purpose since the season was suspended after Paris-Nice in March – a mentally difficult task for typically goal-driven athletes.
The revised Grand Départ, now slated for August 29, has broken that stupor and given Porte at least one race to work towards despite some public skepticism that it will actually go ahead.
"Once we had a date – I think I probably speak for everyone here – when you got up and had to do the daily Zwift, and all of that, it just became a real light at the end of the tunnel. There was something to ride for. It's a motivation that at least we're training towards something," Porte told Cyclingnews during an ergo session on Tuesday.
The Tour Down Under champion has trained indoors on lockdown in Monaco since he returned from Paris-Nice. Monaco is set to ease its restrictions from May 4, but because the sovereign city-state is surrounded by France, Porte may have to wait until at least May 11 before he can ride outside.
"The first day out on the road, it's going to be like Christmas time," he said.
Last month, the 35-year-old was doing one-hour sessions on the home trainer, which he's now more than doubled and is less mindful of Tour rivals who have, perhaps to their advantage, been able to clock miles outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I took three weeks super easy, and now that we're getting, fingers crossed, towards the end of the lockdown, I have the motivation to get on it [the home trainer] for four hours a day, or more. It's a good place to be," Porte said.
"My coach was really good with that. He said at the start, 'Do what you need to do, what you want to do, and then ramp it up if you have the motivation.' So, the ball has been left in my court.
"When you're in early March, or early April, even, doing super long efforts on the trainer, that wouldn't work for me. Everybody is individual with what they need and want, aren't they? I think they've done it pretty well."
Trek-Segafredo have maintained open communication channels with their riders during the pandemic, but have not yet planned any team or altitude training camps specific to the Tour.
The UCI is set to provide more details on a reworked 2020 race calendar, including the Tour, the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España and the five one-day Monuments, though a date on when they'll do so is unclear.
"At the moment, there's a hell of a lot of 'what ifs' to get over. I think it's good news that at the moment the Tour is pencilled in," Porte said.
"It's a special year, you know; no one could have predicted that this could have happened or would have happened. Back in January – the Tour Down Under – that feels like it was a different year.
"We had the debacle there at the UAE Tour [which was cancelled with two stages remaining after several race participants tested positive to coronavirus]. But I just think if we have races this year, it'll be a massive bonus, and it looks like that is what they're working towards. All we can do as cyclists is ride our bikes as best we can, whether that's on the road or on Zwift. It's really something to look forward to."
A second child on the way
The Tour this year could be the last Porte enters as an outright team leader. The Australian has indicated he may revert to super-domestique duties from next season following a concerted five-year pursuit of the yellow jersey.
Porte – who is in a 'contract year' – said starting the 2020 Tour predominately on the back of training, rather than months of competition and conditioning, was "doable".
"Everyone is professional. For instance, if we come out of lockdown in France on the 11th that's a hell of a lot of time to get fit and be ready," he said.
"No one really knows what's going to happen with travel restrictions and border controls, and all of this. It's all a bit of a hypothetical there, but as for the three-and-a-half months to get ready for the Tour, even if there is not a hell of a lot of racing, I think it's definitely doable."
Porte believes his "biggest hiccup" at the Tour this year will be the prospect of missing the birth of his second child. His wife, Gemma, is due to give birth on September 12 – midway through the revised August 29 to September 20 race.
"At this stage of my career, we've made the decision that there are not going to be many more Tours to do, and that I should be at the race," Porte said.
"Of course, it's not ideal, and it's not something that you want, but I also feel this is probably in the twilight of my career. I need to do the Tour and our sponsors have been really good as well, so you feel like you do need to make some sacrifices.
"To be honest, it's the biggest sacrifice I can think of, but I'll be ready to go to the Tour."