There are 40 days to go until the Grand Départ of the 2017 Tour de France. Last week we spoke to one of the riders who is going to be chasing the yellow jersey this July. Before talking about the race, the 31-year-old Tasmanian offered an overview of what he’s doing as he prepares to try and improve on his fifth place in the race last year…
– Interview by Rob Arnold
Part 02: talking about the Tour de France
In 2017, Richie Porte will start the Tour de France for the seventh time. He made his debut in 2011 after winning the white jersey as best young rider in his Grand Tour debut, the Giro d’Italia of 2010. For years he rode in the service of other riders. Last year, after four seasons with Team Sky, he made the switch to BMC Racing so that he could become a leader in his own right.
He’s happy in the US-registered team and is pleased that things are tracking well as he approaches one of his major objectives of 2017.
In part one of an interview with Porte, we discuss his preparation for a race like the Tour de France.
When we spoke he had just finished an ergo session while at a training camp in the French Alps. It was part of a block of work that will see him climb the equivalent of 54,000 vertical metres in three weeks…
He explains some of his feelings about training and why he now counts climbing metres rather than hours on the bike or kilometres covered…
Click the SoundCloud file to listen to the interview and/or read the transcript below.
RIDE: I’m with Richie Porte. Well, I’m not really. I’m talking to him via phone… and he’s up at altitude [in France] just on the Italian border near Sestrières. What’s going on at the moment?
Richie Porte: “Not a lot really. We’ve also got a bit of a rainy day so I’ve got a bit of cabin fever. I’ve got a double session on the home trainer so it’s not the most exciting of days but I’m still getting the hours done.”
But you’re up there on a bit of a training camp with three other team-mates: ‘Nico’ Roche, Danilo Wyss and Damiano Caruso. That’s obviously part of the core Tour [de France] team, is that right?
“Yeah, exactly right.
“I haven’t raced a lot with Damiano since coming back to Europe but I did the Tour Down Under [with him], so it’s nice to see where the guys are [at in terms of form].
“It also makes it much easier when you come to altitude to have a good bunch of professional guys to train with. I mean, the first few days at altitude are absolutely torture and you don’t want someone half-wheeling you in the first few days [while you’re] trying to acclimatise to riding around 2,000 metres [above sea level].
“It’s a really good dynamic within the group.”
Can you just give us an outline of something you might do at something like that, when it’s closing in on the end of May and you’ve got a big priority that starts on the first of July? Can you give us an idea of your training workload?
“Yeah, I think it’s almost six weeks until the Tour starts so last week in Monaco I did a week of 20,000 metres of climbing.
“The week before that it was 17,000.
“I’ll probably get up around 17,000 for this week – metres of climbing – so it’s really starting to happen now. It’s sort of when you, I guess, put the after-burners on and you think about what you’re eating a little bit more and are getting the weight down – because, six weeks out, it’s quite a long time. Plus we’ve also got the [Criterium du] Dauphiné starting in a couple of weeks.
“But it really feels like now is the ‘Go Time’ for the season.”
It’s funny how you talk about metres climbed. You don’t give a damn about distance or hours on the bike? How are you measuring your efforts?
“I guess it’s also time but, up here, if you look at distance [it’s different]. You know, we’re not doing massive amounts of distance. I mean, last week I did 820km which is still quite a big week but not when you’re looking at it from doing 35 hours on the bike perspective – but I guess it’s all about just quality as well.
“We’re doing some good efforts up here, a little bit at threshold, and through the zones.
“I don’t really want to bore you with all that stuff because if you’re looking at your power meter all the time I think it’s probably one of the worst mistakes you can do.”
You say it would “bore us” but I know most people who would be tuning into this interview would be really keen to hear some numbers. We know a lot of people are spending some time on their home trainer, they understand what power is all about now. It’s different to what it was 10 years ago even. When you’re doing these efforts… what kind of wattage are you doing? Is there some sort of little insight that you can offer that people can relate to?
“For me, my threshold is just over 400 watts at about 59kg. But on the home trainer I find it’s so hard; I can’t do threshold on the home trainer so it’s all about trying to make the time pass, for me.
“I don’t like Zwift that much either. I tried that but when I was getting a minute and a half ridden into me up Box Hill, I kind of thought, ‘It’s probably not the best thing for me…’
“But I think it’s all about throwing in different efforts, some 30/30s – stuff like that, you know: 30 seconds hard and 30 seconds off. Just blocks of that. Anything to make the time go by as quickly as possible.”
Okay. It’s interesting to hear what you say about Zwift. So you think that the actual dynamic of how you ride a bike on the home trainer versus out on the road, is entirely different? That’s why you can’t hit your 400 watts?
“Yeah, perhaps. When you’re out on the road, it’s probably easier to suffer – when you’re actually moving somewhere. But when you’re strapped to… I refer to the ergo as a ‘torture device’ – I find that a little bit hard.
“But I know there are some people who can do it. And I can do it when I really need to but for the moment I’d rather do my quality efforts out on the road. It’s just a little bit mentally easier.”
There are some interesting concepts raised but at the beginning of the year there was quite a lot of Twitter activity based around Speedo. I assume they might be a sponsor, but you had a swimming background. Are you still in the pool much? Are you doing something with that in advance of the Tour?
“I find it a little bit hard when I’m back at home Europe, to get to the pool.
“I think if you swim in Australia there’s quite a bit of etiquette – they’ll let faster swimmers past, or whatever. Whereas here, if I’m swimming in Monaco, there’s ‘lane rage’.
“You get people pushing in front of you who are slower and I just don’t quite enjoy it as much as in Australia. So it’s more of an Aussie thing [for me] but when I can get to a good outdoor pool – and obviously that’s not happening here in the mountains – I do like to do a bit of swimming during my season.”
Is that the best cross-training that you’ve found or are you out running? What other bits and pieces are you doing aside from hours on the bike?
“I can’t run. I don’t think… well, I look at these triathletes and wonder how the hell they can do it.
“It just doesn’t work for me… I’d much prefer swimming than probably even riding. I just find it more enjoyable but that’s probably because I do come from a swimming background and as much as I love riding my bike, at the end of the day, it has become a little bit ‘My Job’. And it’s just nice to break it up and do something totally different and that’s what swimming is.”
Funny isn’t it: if you talk to Olympic swimmers, they say that the worst thing about their job is that they just look at a black line all day. And you get the vistas like what you’re talking about where you are now… and you sort of think, ‘Ah, I quite like to meditate just with that black line…’
“Yeah, I just enjoy it. That’s me personally. I enjoy it and I’m not saying everyone will enjoy it. But it is nice to just do something totally different to what you do the whole year round.”
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Part 02: Talking about the Tour de France