A refreshed and recuperating Richie Porte is confident he can challenge for next year’s Tour de France title, providing he can avoid the misfortune that blighted his 2016 season.
Reflecting on frustrating and luckless Tour de France and Olympic campaigns, the Launceston rider also:
- Forgave Tour organisers for the chaotic events on Mont Ventoux this year;
- Revealed the level of support BMC are willing to give him in 2017;
- Predicted fellow Tasmanian Olympian Scott Bowden could be a Grand Tour rider of the future, and
- Declared his desire to again race this year’s Launceston Classic.
Fresh from two weeks in Utah for surgery on his tonsils and a UK holiday with his wife Gemma, Porte said he remains sore in the ribs from his crash in Rio de Janeiro but reported his scapula is healing well.
“It is frustrating looking back,” said the 31-year-old, who finished fifth in the Tour de France despite an untimely puncture and crashing into a media motorbike.
“I still had a good season but it is hard to take because I know I could have been second in the Tour and challenging for a medal at the Olympics.
“It actually went on all season. At [the tour of] Catalunya, I won last year but finished fourth this year after niggling problems and the [Criterium du] Dauphine, which is one of the biggest races we do, I sat second on the last day only to get knocked down to fourth in the final few hundred metres.
“The Tour [de France] was a disaster in so many ways so hopefully next year I’m due some good luck.
“The goal was to podium and I definitely know now that’s quite achievable.
“The puncture was bad enough but the crash up Mont Ventoux – a lot of things did not go to plan. So to still end up fifth was a great result. At least I have shown I can go the distance for three weeks for myself.
“The crash at the Olympics I was lucky to come away from with just fractured ribs and scapula. It could have been a lot worse. As I sat there at the roadside I certainly thought I had done my hip as well so to be able to walk away from hospital that night was pretty lucky.”
Preparing to embark on the second of his two-year contract with US team BMC, Porte said his eventful season had delivered one major positive.
“The year shows that it was the right choice to leave Team Sky and go to BMC. It feels like home here.
“When I was in the US I caught up with our general manager Jim Ochowicz and he said we believe you can win the Tour next year and our goal is to put the team 100 per cent behind you.
“The fact that they believe in me so much is nice so now it’s just about recovery and think about next year. It’s exciting to know I have the team fully behind me.”
Porte said the team was already putting its money where its mouth is.
“Guys like Damiano Caruso were brilliant and Nicolas Roche is an experienced rider, a good friend and an awesome guy to have around. He really helped me at Paris-Nice.
“The Swiss rider Micky Schar is one of the best in the business to get you through those early days of the Tour.
“I think BMC have done a really good job in recruiting and it shows the confidence they have in me. We’re going to have a really good team.”
Porte said the bizarre Tour de France crash when he, eventual winner Chris Froome and Dutch rider Bauke Mollema collided with a motorbike was an accident waiting to happen after high winds prompted organisers to shorten the stage.
“Mont Ventoux is always special, but on Bastille Day it’s something else. I’ve never seen crowds so thick and so drunk. There was a fair old party going on and we thought it could get a bit dangerous.
“Finishing 7km lower meant people who had been camping up there for days flooded down the mountain to where there were no barriers and it was always going to be a disaster.
“The next thing I knew the motorbike just stopped in front of me. I don’t think I even touched my brakes, I just went into it and suddenly had Froomey and Mollema on top of me.
“It was a disaster of a day and when I rode past Chris running up the mountain we just thought what a joke it was. There was not much the organisers could do and they were very apologetic to us afterwards.”
With Frenchman Romain Bardet finishing the Tour second behind Froome, Porte hopes to see something that suits his fellow climber when next year’s course is announced in October.
He also wants to return home for the Launceston Classic again and was full of praise for Tasmanian mountain biker Bowden, who supported his road race bid at the Olympics.
“Scott was really good. I didn’t really know him that well but he’s the next Tassie boy that could go World Tour. His future has to be on the road. He’s definitely got the characteristics to make it. He has the mental ability to do it and physically has a really big engine.”
Porte also took heart from the result of that race, when his BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet, of Belgium, claimed the gold medal.
”I can learn a lot from what happened to Greg. He’s a classics rider and he really targeted the classics this year only to break his collarbone there.
“But then he came back, had three or four days in the yellow jersey at the Tour and won gold at the Olympics. He had so much bad luck but to come out and do what he did is a real silver lining and I hope that can happen to me too.”
It is hard to take because I know I could have been second in the Tour and challenging for a medal at the Olympics