Giro d'Italia

Trimmed-down Richie Porte looking to ‘step up’ in 2015

A trimmed-down Richie Porte looks to bounce back after an illness-shortened 2014 season that saw his confidence take "a fair ol’ beating"

ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Richie Porte (Sky) enters 2015 with something to prove, and he knows it’s time to deliver.

The Tasmanian rider stayed off the Boags beer over the winter, and rolls into the Santos Tour Down Under as a favorite, looking trimmer than he’s been in his career.

“You can count the nights out on the piss on one hand,” Porte said Saturday in a press conference. “I came back to Tazzie [Tasmania] in November, and I’ve had a few good months of training. I’ve been on it.”

After shedding kilos off his lean frame to trim his race weight down to 62kg (137 pounds), he barreled to an impressive time trial victory in the Australian national championship last week ahead of Jack Bobridge and Rohan Dennis, two riders preparing for a run at the hour record, proof that Porte is upping his game.

“It was good to put a good TT like that. I haven’t done that in a long time,” Porte said. “I need to believe that I can start winning these races.”

Porte, who turns 30 later this month, realizes this will be a decisive year in his career trajectory. A former triathlete, Porte came to road racing relatively late, but quickly made a splash, notching some big-time results that provided hints of major GC potential. Porte rode in support of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in their respective winning rides at the Tour de France, and confirmed his potential with a big victory during the 2013 Paris-Nice.

Last year was supposed to be his breakthrough season, but illness sidelined a planned assault on the Giro d’Italia. He later abandoned the Tour despite being in pole position for a possible podium run, again succumbing to illness, and limped into Paris a disappointing 23rd. He quickly pulled the plug on his season.

“My confidence last year took a fair ol’ beating. I thought it was going to be a bit easier,” Porte said. “This year, I am ready to step it up.”

For 2015, the Giro once again is on his radar. He’s hoping to arrive in top condition to battle Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step). After that, he hopes to return to the Tour to help Froome take aim at a second yellow jersey.

“My big goal is the Giro d’Italia,” he said. “I am so motivated to go there in great form.”

Up first is the Santos Tour Down Under, which starts Tuesday. Last year, Porte won the final decisive stage up Willunga Hill en route to fourth overall. Many view Porte as the pre-race favorite, but the man himself is not among them.

“I don’t see myself as the race favorite. There is Cadel Evans, Tom Dumoulin; Orica will have some guys up there. There are many, many faves,” he said. “I am in good form, and I have a good team here. I am looking forward to getting the race started, and seeing what we can do. For me, last year, Willunga was about the highlight of my season. I am going better than I was last year. I think stage 3 could be decisive, but there might not be that many time differences, so I think it will come down to Willunga to decide everything.”

So far, the Australian sun has been treating him well. He’s hoping for a big week before a return to Europe.