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Porte targets Olympic reboot, Tour for 2020

The veteran Tasmanian remains as motivated and as ambitious as ever as he enters his season with Trek-Segafredo.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) will take on some familiar challenges in 2020. The Tasmanian will place another run at the Tour de France and what he hopes is one more shot at an Olympic medal on a favorable course in Tokyo at the center of his ambitions.

Porte, 35 later this month, will debut his 13th pro season on familiar ground at the Santos Tour Down Under, before hitting some traditional targets ahead of the Tour and a fresh run at Olympic glory.

“This is an Olympic year and I want to be on the start line in Tokyo,” he told The Examiner in Tasmania. “That’s a pretty big motivation for me.”

Australia qualified with four starting slots for the elite men’s road race, with two for the time trial. On paper, Porte should be in the running for an Olympic bid. Rohan Dennis — fifth in the Rio time trial and the current world time trial champion — will all but certainly get one of the starting spots. The mountainous road course would favor the likes of Porte as well as Jack Haig, but is too mountainous for Caleb Ewan, with Michael Matthews as a possible wildcard. Team selection is expected by late spring for Australia.

In 2016, Porte was poised for a strong finish in Rio de Janeiro when he crashed late and broke his scapula. For Tokyo, Porte hopes to earn a starting spot for Australia and change the ending of his Olympic story.

“Rio was the start of three bad years of crashing so I did not enjoy the last Olympic experience, but Tokyo will be a totally different race and I’d love to be there for Australia,” Porte said. “It’s a pretty tough course and you never know how Australian selectors will play it.”

For the remainder of the season, Trek-Segafredo has already outlined its major goals for 2020, splitting the calendar between Porte, Giro di Lombardia winner Bauke Mollema, and newcomer Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian star has confirmed he will target the Giro d’Italia and put a special emphasis on the Olympics and the world championships, set for a challenging climbing course in the Swiss Alps.

In his first of two seasons with Trek-Segafredo in 2019, Porte won on familiar roads on Old Willunga Hill at the Tour Down Under, but settled for 11th at the Tour.

“It was a disappointing season to be honest what with getting sick and having training camps in Utah where we were just stuck inside on home trainers,” Porte said. “The first year of a new team is always hard to adapt as they get to know you, too. … [11th was] not what I came for.”

Porte said he’s still motivated to race and train as he’s become one of the veterans of the peloton, and despite a few challenging seasons marked by crashes and health setbacks, his ambitions remain high.

“I actually think it’s exciting that I don’t have as many years in front as behind before I can have a normal life, but at the moment it’s still a privilege to ride a bike for a living,” he said.

“A lot of journalists just have their opinion, but who are they to judge us when none of them have a clue what they are talking about? I’m 34 and I still enjoy working hard and riding my bike.”