ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Richie Porte (BMC Racing) leaves the Santos Tour Down Under confident he’s on track for another run at the yellow jersey.
The Tasmanian all-rounder cleared his first hurdle on the road back to the Tour de France with a solid outing in his first stage race since crashing out last July in the Pyrénées.
Porte, who will be 33 next week, finishes the Tour Down Under satisfied with a fifth-straight victory on the Willunga Hill stage. And though he missed out on defending his title on a tiebreaker to Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Porte’s return to racing this month leaves him optimistic about the looming European campaign.
“I am super motivated about this year and getting to Europe,” Porte said. “Everything this year is looking up.”
Last year, Porte used his Tour Down Under victory to barnstorm into the European calendar, including victory at the Tour de Romandie en route to the Tour. The wheels came off when he crashed on stage nine.
Healthy again, Porte hopes to use the momentum from his stage-race season debut to hit the same winning form in 2018. He will race next weekend in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race before returning to Europe. The ultimate goal is to return to the Tour de France in condition to race for the win.
To get there, he’s tweaking his roadmap to Paris. Instead of returning to familiar terrain at Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné, Porte will race at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Suisse. He’s only started Tirreno once, and he’s never raced the Swiss tour.
“It’s a bit of a change to the program, so I am quite of excited about that,” he said. “I love Paris-Nice, and it’s been good to me over the years, but it’s just nice to change things up a little bit.”
BMC Racing is glad to see its Tour leader ride out of Australia with high morale and a solid week of racing. Porte’s horrific exit from last year’s Tour left the team anxious to see their star back on the bike.
“This is a signal that things are on track,” said BMC Racing’s general manager Jim Ochowicz. “His health, power and performance are all where they should be. After a crash like he had in the Tour, you just don’t know until you race again. So after this week, we know he is on track for the Tour.”