Another second-place overall and a Willunga stage win at the Tour Down Under would suggest that little has changed for Richie Porte in the last 12 months, but behind the scenes the Australian and his new Trek-Segafredo team have been finessing and fine-tuning his training and race schedule in a bid to maximise his output.
Perhaps the most significant change comes in the form of Porte's coach. At BMC Racing Team, Porte was under the tutelage of David Bailey, but when he was released on the eve of the Tour de France last July, Porte was briefly looked after by Marco Pinotti.
With Bailey moving to Bahrain-Merida this season, Porte linked up with Trek-Segafredo's in-house head of performance, Josu Larrazabal. According to Porte, the relationship has started well, with both men releasing that the formulae created over the last few years have reaped success.
If there are to be any changes in training they will be relatively minimal, with the most significant alteration coming in the form of less racing and more time at home this season.
"Josu said to me coming in that we don't need to change much," Porte told reporters at the conclusion of the Tour Down Under.
"I went back to Tasmania for some training and it's nice having Will Clarke in the team and as a training partner. We've been low-key and under the radar but we've done some good training. It's nice that the team have the faith in me so that I can go home and get in that good block. Dave Bailey was brilliant for me but I also had Tim Kerrison [at Team Sky] before. I've worked with some super good guys in Bradley McGee and Bobby Julich but Josu was good in that he said, 'You know what you're doing, let's work around that'. It hasjust made things much easier."
Trek-Segafredo signed Porte on the basis of his experience and track record in stage races. Although he has struggled to bring his week-long form into the three-week Grand Tour format, he remains one of the most consistent stage racers in the peloton.
This year he will cut a handful of races from his pre-Tour de France programme and instead target key events with the aim of winning them. After he competes in Australia at the Cadel Evans Race and the Herald Sun Tour, he will take a break before returning to Paris-Nice – a race he has won twice –before building up towards the Critérium du Dauphiné and then the Tour. There are still a few pieces of the jigsaw to be filled in, with the possible inclusion of the UAE Tour in February, although that has not been confirmed.
"I think it's going to be a little bit different. I don't think I'll race so much. I'm looking forward to Paris-Nice and then having a bit of a break, which worked well for me in 2017. That's going to be the biggest change for me," he said.
"For sure the Tour is a target. I just need to get through it. I think we've got a good plan. I've got Kim Andersen as my director. I had him back in Saxo, so it's nice to be working with him again. There's going to be a bit more time to train and then I'll hit the Dauphiné and the Tour in good form. The team is letting me do that. I've come here in good shape but it's nice to also wind down a bit away from the pressure of racing and do a training block. It's been proven to work for other guys so I'm hoping it works for me too."
The European season and the key races within Porte's programme are still some way off. The short-term plan is to carry on learning and adjusting to his new environment at Trek. After his sixth win at Willunga, the 33-year-old just wants to build on his momentum.
"I'm looking forward to the Cadel Evans race. It's WorldTour and it's nice to keep the ball rolling. Winning is infectious, so hopefully we can keep winning races this season."
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