In part two of our interview with Richie Porte, we talk about the Tour de France of 2017.
• Part 01
• Part 02
RIDE: Let’s talk about the Tour de France. Are you a favourite? Are you going to be on the podium this year…?
Richie Porte: “I mean, that’s the ultimate dream and the ultimate goal – to be up there.
“I think last year, no disrespect to the guys that were second and third in the Tour, but I honestly feel that had I not had bad luck along the way I would have been more of a challenge – to be up there.
“But it still does hurt a little bit, things like throwing two minutes away – for a puncture (in stage two of the 2016 race, when he lost 1:45).
“That hurts but at the end of the day, this year the team has really gotten behind me. I’ve got a good bunch of core riders and core staff around me to try and achieve that goal of hitting the podium there in Paris.”
Click the SoundCloud file to listen to Richie talk about the Tour de France and/or read the transcript below.
I saw you the day you did have the puncture and you were surprisingly composed. I think we talked about maybe replaying that incident in your mind in the future. So, has that gone over on replay a few times?
“Yeah, I guess so. Obviously, you can’t say I was in a bad position because I think I was in second-wheel when it happened but I think I got a bit of a bad…
“I can’t really blame the team so much because we just didn’t go through that scenario.
“The scenario was that we’d ride for Greg [Van Avermaet] that day. Or there’d be guys riding for Greg and Tejay and I would kind of sit in there. So it was a hard stage and there were no team-mates in the bunch other than on the front of the bunch.
“The guys that actually came back to me came from behind and I don’t think the neutral spares really did me too many favours.
“It took a long time to get the wheel in but it’s just one of those things, I guess, that you’d love to go back in time and change. But it leaves me a little bit hungrier for this year.”
I think we saw quite a lot of different things at play at the 2016 Tour. Just Chris [Froome] running up the road after you’d had that really hard crash, and all sorts of different security measures because of all that France has gone through. You live in Monaco which is nearby [to Nice]. What’s the vibe like in 2017 versus what it was like going into a race that was plagued by terrorism, if we consider the [incident] in Nice?
“Yeah, I mean that’s right: on the ‘Bastille Day’ there was the horrible attacks there in Nice. But also the year before, in Paris, there was attacks there… to be honest: it was in the back of your mind when you were riding in Paris.
“Probably one of the biggest things to happen in Paris is the last stage of the Tour and I think, just the year before, a spectator got onto the course and stood in the middle of us. I mean, the bunch went around and it was a miracle that nobody got hurt.
“So it’s like: even though they do a fantastic job controlling that, it’s not always possible is it? If someone’s hell bent on trying… of causing dramas, it can happen. But you see every day, when you ride out from Monaco into France and into Italy that there’s border control. They are stopping a lot of cars that come in and out.
“Just in the time that I’ve been in Europe, it has changed so much. It’s a little bit sad to be honest.”
The whole dynamic is different. That’s the way I felt, definitely last year when I was at the Tour. But going in as a rider who is chasing, let’s face it: the yellow jersey… and you’re up against [a] guy who has won it three times, who you know very well. What are you thinking about in this last stanza of preparation? Are you excited about the Tour or just feeling like you’re going through the motions?
“I’m super motivated for the Dauphiné because I guess that’s the first big test now to see where guys are at.
“I think, obviously, we did Romandie three weeks ago and Froome and Sky were not quite what people thought they would be. So the Dauphiné, for me, is the biggest test just to see where they are at.
“You know, ‘Froomey’ has won that race every year that he’s won the Tour so I think that’s going to be the first big indication. But for me, going into the Tour this year, I think it’s more just do the things that I can control and not lose too much energy on things I can’t control.
“I think, for me, that’s not… that’s like not going on social media so much to see…
“Everyone likes to have a bit of a pot-shot at you: that you’re going to have a bad day and all this rubbish. So it’s just nice to stay away from that side of things and not go on the cycling tabloids or things like that either because a lot of that stuff is stuff that you don’t need to take in anyhow.
“I’m just enjoying my training and the relationship with the team and the team-mates, that’s probably the biggest thing for me at the moment.”
It helps that you’ve got guys like Nico Roche around, and we’ll get to him [soon – see part 3] but it’s interesting that you reference the social media aspect and the ramifications that can have on preparation. We talk so much about preparing for the physical but if you lose the mental edge, you’re also at a real weak point, aren’t you?
Is that what happened at the Giro a couple of years ago? I’m curious about that: you know, when you had the wheel change with Simon Clarke and all those things happened against you. Did you lose you motivation?
“I wouldn’t say I ‘lost motivation’ to be honest. It was more [about] having a crash just outside the three kilometre zone that ultimately ended it for me. I banged my knee up quite badly there but I just think it’s a bit of a funny one because the Giro itself were reposting pictures of ‘Clarkey’ helping me with the wheel and the next thing the UCI go and punish you.
“It’s like, yeah, I didn’t know about that rule so in some ways that’s my fault but it was such a positive story of mateship that came out of that; okay, yes we broke rules but I also lost 45 seconds – or whatever it was – and maybe that should have been penalty enough.
“But no, instead they chose to throw the rule book at me.
“It’s funny because there’s pictures of a guy hanging onto a motorbike on Mont Ventoux last year when we were crashing on the mountain and there’s no problems there.
“I just find that maybe the UCI has kind of lost touch a little bit with cycling. There’s a lot worse things going on than wheel changes from guys from different teams.”
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the things that you guys do. Some things elicit a lot of reaction on social media and you can ignore it or not, but you know that it’s happening. And then there’s also a lot at play that people aren’t aware of. I think you’ve covered a lot of that territory in this chat today.
“Exactly. I mean you still hear of guys hanging onto cars during climbs and things like that and, okay, they’re getting much better at policing that sort of thing. I think the sport is changing in a lot of good ways but then when you hear of almost half the field getting fined in the Tour of the Alps because their [race] numbers weren’t visible on a crappy day when they had to have rainjackets and things like that. I mean, that’s just a joke.
“It’s like revenue raising, really. Isn’t it?
“So maybe they have a great end-of-year party from some of the ridiculous fines that we have to pay. But I guess, at the end of the day, maybe they’ll move with the times eventually.”
We wait and we watch what happens to professional sport. But you can be at the footy jeering the umpire and saying that he does the wrong decision or you can be a part of the Tour de France – or Giro, in [your] instance – and realise that you’re being penalised when other people might not. It’s all part of the circus isn’t it? Do you feel like you’re part of a circus?
“One hundred percent. It’s like every Grand Tour that’s one, there’s always something massive that happens. Like the other day in the Giro [stage nine] with the crash with the motorbike.
“And the Tour: our crash with the motorbike.
“It’s such a pressure cooker. There’s always some sort of scandal that comes out of it.
“It’s nice, when you’re not part of it, to be able to watch that but I guess that’s just it isn’t it, some of these bigger races, there’s a lot of unprecedented incidents that happen – that’s probably the beauty of cycling, that there’s just so many variables, so many things can happen and in different circumstances.
“So I guess now the sport is getting more and more media coverage, it’s all there for everybody to see.”
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Part 01 • Part 02 • Part 03 (coming soon)