Richie Porte wrapped up his first GC title of the season at the Tour de Suisse on Sunday, proving he’s on track for the biggest goal of his 2018 campaign.
“I’m ready for the Tour de France,” he said via a team press release after his victory. “I did a good race here. I’m not at the top of my form just yet so I am excited for July.”
BMC led the Tour de Suisse wire to wire after winning the opening team time trial. The team’s early success in the race meant spending more than a week defending a jersey; Stefan Küng held the lead until the race hit more challenging terrain, with Porte taking over in stage 5 and holding on from there.
Porte and Co. proved more than up to the task of fending off challengers. Runner-up Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) finished over a minute down. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took some time on Porte with a mountain stage win but not nearly enough to pose a major threat on the leader’s jersey, and the Colombian then dropped to third in the stage 9 time trial.
“It hasn’t been an easy week but the guys did a fantastic job. We really had our work cut out for us and we didn’t get a lot of help from the other teams,” Porte said. “I was a little bit worried coming into [the final time trial] about guys like Kelderman but I’m happy with the time we put into them at the start of the race.”
BMC will hope that a flying Porte can improve on past performances this July at the Tour de France. Despite his many exploits in one-week events, his fifth overall finish at the 2016 Tour marks his best ever GC placing in a grand tour.
Porte entered last year’s race among the top favorites to unseat perennial champion and former Sky teammate Chris Froome in the yellow jersey battle, but crashed on a descent in stage 9 and abandoned the race. Nonetheless, he is again headed into the Tour de France as one of the top favorites for the general classification, particularly thanks to his strong showing this past week.
The 33-year-old Australian has no shortage of stage race wins on his palmares but he called his Suisse victory the biggest of his career.
“I’ve won at races like Paris-Nice, Volta Catalunya, and Tour de Romandie but this race is so special and to come here after the passing of [BMC owner] Andy Rihs earlier in the season and win his home Tour is a massive satisfaction,” he said.
Porte can also take confidence from the form his teammates showed in Switzerland. In addition to winning the opening team time trial of the Tour de Suisse, BMC came away with another TT stage victory thanks to Stefan Küng on the final day of racing. Superdomestique Tejay van Garderen also delivered a solid ride in stage 9, finishing third. Küng and van Garderen are both expected to be at the Tour de France, helping Porte in his pursuit of yellow.
As he hunts that elusive result in a three-week event, Porte has one more major block of training in between now and the Grand Depart.
“Before this race, I hadn’t raced since Tour de Romandie,” he said. “I was at home for the birth of my son two weeks ago and I’ve only had one night at home with him so, I think it’s great for me to get to go home for a bit of time before a training camp and then hopefully I’ll be better at the Tour de France.”