Vuelta a Espana
Richie Porte's (BMC Racing) GC title defense at...

Porte relieved to get Vuelta started

BMC's Richie Porte was ready to put his summer of back luck behind him as the Vuelta got underway in Malaga.

MALAGA, Spain (VN) — It seems Richie Porte just cannot catch a break.

The BMC Racing captain was zapped by gastroenteritis just days ahead of the start of the Spanish grand tour. It was hardly the ideal launch pad for his return to racing following his bad-luck crash at the Tour de France last month.

The Tasmanian was more relieved than satisfied Saturday to stick the Vuelta a España into gear in a short but intense opening prologue.

“I felt absolutely awful, to be honest,” Porte said at the line Saturday. “It’s been bitterly disappointing. It’s not been a straightforward run-in to the Vuelta, that’s for sure.”

Even before Porte arrived at the Vuelta, he was downplaying his chances for the overall. He sounded even more somber when he got zapped with a bad stomach. He felt so bad he could not attend the team presentation or a favorites’ press conference scheduled Thursday. Speaking to journalists Friday, Porte said, “I am nowhere near where I was in July.”

“It was terrible,” Porte said of his ride Saturday. “It was shocking. It was hard to be motivated for it. It’s nice to start the race.”

Porte returns to the Vuelta for the first time since 2012 in what’s only his second crack at the Spanish grand tour.

His approach was far from perfect following his costly crash in what was a rather benign pileup early in stage 9 at the Tour. The crash sent a demoralized and frustrated Porte home with a cracked collarbone.

Determined to race again this season, Porte committed to starting the Vuelta even as he knew he would be racing at Trek-Segafredo next season. Whatever ambitions Porte might have had were soon deflated with gastroenteritis that hit him in a training ride Wednesday.

Porte is hoping the worst is behind him, at least temporarily, and he can make it through Sunday’s and Monday’s demanding stages as he fully recovers from the stomach problem.

“I look forward to building the form for the world championships in this race,” a forlorn Porte said Saturday. “Building up to a grand tour, there’s always a bit of stress, sitting around and not really training. Plus I got a little bit sick. It hasn’t been ideal.”