Richie Porte (BMC Racing) has resumed training after fracturing his collarbone during the Tour de France and has confirmed he will ride the Vuelta a Espana and then target the hilly world road race championships in Innsbruck, Austria, at the end of September.
The Tasmanian spent the second half of July watching the Tour de France on the sofa at his home in Monaco after crashing out of the race before the peloton hit the cobbles of stage 9 to Roubaix.
It meant for some painful afternoons – physically and mentally – for Porte. He was able to enjoy some precious time with his wife Gemma and recently born son but could only watch from the outside as his former Team Sky teammate and good friend Geraint Thomas fought to defend the yellow jersey.
Thomas crashed out of both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 2017 before his fortunes turned this summer. Despite crashing out on stage 9 of both the 2017 and 2018 Tour de France, Porte is determined to control his own destiny in 2019 and plans to again target overall victory in the sport's biggest Grand Tour.
After three seasons with BMC Racing, Porte is expected to confirm sometime before the start of the Vuelta a Espana on August 25 that he will ride for Trek-Segafredo in 2019.
"The goal is to get past stage 9 next year…," Porte said, still retaining his dry sense of humour, despite his Tour de France disappointment, during a telephone interview as he gradually increases his training load and thinks to the Vuelta a Espana and beyond.
"What happened this year has left me more motivated for the Tour. 100 per cent of the motivation is there (for 2019). It was inspiring to see Geraint win the Tour. I've seen so much of his bad luck first hand and so to see him win the Tour does give you a bit more motivation.
"Obviously it was disappointing to crash out again and be at home watching on the sofa again, especially how the Tour was this year. As soon as it went up to the mountains and Team Sky took control, and we figured how the race would have turned, it would have been an ideal scenario for myself.
"But full credit to Geraint, we're quite good friends. We trained together before the Tour and I saw a different Geraint. He was super motivated going into it, I've never seen him so switched on. I guess he took confidence out of winning the Dauphine. When you know Geraint like I do, it's not a surprise he finally puts it all together and doesn't have any bad luck in the race. It's not a massive surprise to see him up there; he's one of the most talented."
A cruel, cruel sport
Last year Thomas and Porte travelled home after both crashing out on stage 9 to Chambery. Porte was struck by bad luck again on stage 9 to Roubaix. Photographs taken moments after his crash captured the pain and emotion of leaving the Tour de France. In an instant, months of work and dedication meant for nothing.
"When the Tour route is announced, that's when all the planning starts; you ride every day and its somewhere in the back of mind that this is something that will happen in the Tour. You compare your effort to what you'll do in the Tour. Then all of sudden it can be over in a split second. Cycling is a cruel, cruel sport," Porte says in a reflective mood.
"As soon as I hit the ground, I knew I had fractured the collarbone. You get that dull pain and you know it's not good. The first doctor on the scene told me to get into the ambulance. That was it. That's when it all hit me, all that preparation, all the training camps; all the work done behind scenes was for nothing for another year."
Porte will be 34 next January. He has only been racing at WorldTour level since 2010 but knows that time is ticking on his Grand Tour and especially on his chances.
"Cadel won when hew as 34 and I'm 34 next year, so I'll just taking it as it comes. I feel I've still got years left in me but at end of the day, you get to a point to where the body slows down. That happens to everyone," Porte points out.
"So I suppose it has to be next year or maybe try another Grand Tour the year after. I know I don't have many more opportunities to go and have a crack at the Tour. Cadel still podiumed in the Giro and the Vuelta after being 34."
Enjoying the cycling endorphins before the Vuelta a Espana
Porte began training on the road just as the Tour de France ended. Getting back in the saddle helped him turn a page and look to the future.
"It's nice to get those endorphins. That's why we ride the bike, for that feeling. It's been nice to roll along in the summer and enjoy my training roads for what they are. You appreciate them more when been stuck inside for two weeks," he says.
Porte is unsure about his form for the start of the Vuelta a Espana on August 25. His goals in Spain will very much depend on how he feels and how he recovers day after day during the three weeks of racing. He will not race before the Vuelta a Espana, with a shot at the rainbow jersey at the world championships the carrot at the end of the stick for the next two months.
"I'll find out where I'm at during the Vuelta like a lot of guys," Porte predicted.
"The biggest goal is worlds now," Porte explains.
"A couple of days after the crash, it was nice to get a message from Brad McGee, the Aussie national team selector. He put that thought in my head and that motivated me to get my act together to get back before the season is out.
Porte could pull on the Australian green and gold for both the time trial and the road race in Innsbruck.
"I think there are 10 days between the Vuelta and the time trial so hopefully that's enough time to get some recovery and check out the courses," Porte explains.
"The time trial is some like 52km, that's a long one. But I'll have a go at it. I think the road race course is good for me, it's not one you often see one so tough like that."
First comes three weeks of suffering in Spain.
"I last ride the Vuelta in 2012 and I got an absolute kicking," he recalls.
"The Vuelta is not the race to ride unless you're 100 per cent motivated. It's hard. It's like that last chance saloon; there are guys looking for contracts, guys who are absolutely flying. People said it's the most relaxed of the Grand Tours, with an organised gruppetto. But I was out the back at 14km into a stage and there was no organized gruppetto.
"I don't know where my form will be but that's a nice goal to go to the Vuelta and try to see how it goes."
Read the second part of our interview with Richie Porte here.
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