The decision that Richie Porte will no longer race the Giro d’Italia as lead rider for the British Sky team is hugely disappointing for Australian cycling fans.
The Giro, from May 9-June 1, was set to feature an Australian head-to-head battle between Porte and 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC).
Both were considered as among contenders for overall victory, but with Porte out, Australia's Giro hopes now rest on Evans who finished third last year.
It was a wise decision to change Porte’s race schedule. The Tasmanian is now free to focus on the Tour de France from July 5-27.
For a team leader such as Porte to start a three-week tour as hard as the Giro short of top form, and full fitness, is foolhardy especially as the cold conditions alone can bring on illness.
If Porte raced the Giro there was a strong possibility he would have been below peak form for the rest of the season. Sky need him to be strong if they are to help British Tour champion Chris Froome claim back-to-back victories.
Doubts that Porte would race the Giro emerged last week when he spoke to Fairfax Media about the gastroenteritis that forced him to quit the Tirreno Adriatico stage race in Italy with three stages remaining and the Volta a Catalunya from March 24-30 during stage two.
His season was unravelling after starting strongly with a bronze medal in the Australian road title and a stage win and fourth overall in the Tour Down Under.
In both Australian races, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) won and Evans placed second, begging the question - in light of their own relatively quiet seasons since - have the three riders raced so hard that they red-lined far earlier in the season than planned?
Any answer is mere conjecture, but it may force them to reconsider their early season schedule next year.
What is certain for Porte is that his illness cost him eight days of intense racing which he needed to reach the optimal level required for overall honours in Italy.
With only one other stage race initially scheduled for him before the Giro, that being the Giro del Trentino (Aril 22-25) in Italy which he now longer will race either, time was not on his side to find the preparation he needed.
Porte admitted last week that his Giro schedule had been “compromised”.
“It has compromised my Giro preparation.” Porte told Fairfax Media last Thursday from Monaco when asked what impact of health issues and two mid-race abandons would have on his Giro plans.
“It’s disappointing to lose such a big chunk of racing but at the end of the day it's out of my control.”
At least now, Porte faces a newly laid pathway that should allow him to rediscover his best form for cycling's biggest stage.
His next race will be the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one day classic in Belgium on April 21, followed by the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland on April 29-May 5 and then the Criterium du Dauphine in France on June 8-15 before the Tour.
Froome will be Sky’s leader in all four races, but who knows what opportunities may unfold for Porte, especially with full health and form returned?
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cycling/richie-portes-withdrawal-was-a-seasoned-decision-20140408-zqs6a.html#ixzz2yGZIfhEl