As leader of the BMC team, the Australian won the national tour in an impressive way. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) talks in an exclusive interview about the missed victory in the royal stage, the hard work of his team and his goals for the new season.
TdS: You are currently in the middle of the build-up phase for the summer – do you sometimes think back to your Tour de Suisse victory during training?
Richie Porte: Yes, I even think back on it quite often. It was a special moment that also coincided with the birth of our son … I recently looked at the photos with my wife and thought back to that time and the victory in the Tour de Suisse – which was a great success for me. It is the biggest victory of my career so far.
TdS: You have consistently dominated the Tour de Suisse with the BMC team. First Stefan Küng wore yellow after the team won the team time trial, then you took over from Leukerbad and never let the lead out of your hands again. At what point were you confident and really believed that you would bring home the overall victory?
Richie Porte: Yes, it was definitely a perfect race for our team. After the stage to Gommiswald, where I was able to lose the boys from the overall classification on the short ascent, I was confident that my legs would do well and I was ready for the longer ascents. I was also confident at the beginning of the last time trial, although I thought that riders like Wilco Kelderman would catch up. Of course you can never feel completely safe anyway.
TdS: From an outsider’s point of view, it seemed as if you always had everything completely under control – except on the stage up to Arosa, where Nairo (Quintana) started its attack very early. Did it surprise you that he tried his luck so early?
TdS: But did you get nervous when Nairo did the thing?
Richie Porte: No, I didn’t really get nervous. I knew that the last stage would be a long time trial (laughs). But yes, after the flatter section and this short descent Greg sent me off for the last part of the climb. And it was steeper than I thought. Seen in this light, it was definitely not easy.
TdS: The day before, on the sixth stage to Gommiswald, on the short but steep ascent before the “Flamme Rouge” you attacked None of the riders in the overall classification were able to follow – did it bother you that Soren Kragh-Andersen from the breakaway group won the stage? And you had to book the overall victory without an additional stage win for yourself? Or didn’t it matter?
Richie Porte:I definitely still think it’s a pity that I won the overall classification without winning a stage. Because when you win in the overall classification, you naturally want to show that you are the strongest. The team did everything they could to bring back the escape group. But Soren is a strong driver!
TdS: What did the victory in the overall classification mean to you exactly at this moment, after the last time trial on the last day?
Richie Porte: DetailOh, that was simply a fantastic moment. I mean, the Tour de Suisse is probably the most important one-week – or rather nine day (laughs) stage race. I did not have the best spring in 2018 and the victory at the Tour de Suisse … Oh, man, that was a real relief. It’s my biggest victory so far and it has also given me the confidence to compete in the Tour de France!
TdS: From today’s point of view, a few months later and after things didn’t turn out as hoped at the Tour de France – how do you rate your overall win at the Tour de Suisse today?
Richie Porte: Yes… I crashed again on stage 9. It was really disappointing and frustrating. Everything looked so good for me and for the team. We went to France with high hopes and wanted to show performance, also to pay respect and honour to Andy Rihs after his death for everything he did for this team. That’s why I naturally prefer to think of the days in Switzerland.
TdS: No matter whether it’s a sprint stage, a mountain stage or the victory in the overall classification: We hear in every interview how important the team is.
Can you describe to someone less familiar with our sport – someone who only looks at the last ten kilometres of a race at a time – how important the role of the team was for your overall victory and at what moments of the race was it really teamwork?
Richie Porte: Look, it’s a team sport A team like I had, with Michi (Schär), Greg van Avermaet and Stefan Küng, Simon Gerrans and all the others, makes it possible for you to win a race like the Tour de Suisse.
On the king’s stage, after we had crossed these two high mountains, it was Michi who basically pulled the whole field alone (laughs) – maybe not the best example for teamwork. Funnily enough, we are all in different teams this season …
TdS: Exactly, you have changed the team for the 2019 season How is it going so far with Trek Segafredo?
Richie Porte: It’s going great! We had a good start on the tour Down Under, everything feels very good. And now the real races are starting in Europe.
TdS: You became a father just before the start of the TdS. It must have been pretty hard to leave your family so soon after birth and concentrate on cycling. How do you manage to keep the focus and not be distracted?
Richie Porte: Look, this is my job. When I had to say goodbye, it was a great motivation to give my best. And winning the Tour de Suisse was such a great moment. And only the teddy bear I got from the race organizers (laughs) – that was very nice and reminds me of those good times.
TdS: The year before you were able to win the Tour de Romandie, but you had never driven the Tour de Suisse before – what made you decide to drive the Tour de Suisse in 2018?
Richie Porte: I was tired of always finishing second on the Dauphiné (laughs). And I was lucky, because in view of the imminent birth, the timing of the Tour de Suisse was simply better.
TdS: As a professional cyclist you travel around the world and race in many places. Can you think of anything special that has remained in your memory from races in Switzerland?
Richie Porte: Yes, the streets. The roads are really good. And even when you suffer, you realize how beautiful this country is. I think Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places on earth – and has some of the nicest cows (laughs)!
TdS: Richie, thank you very much and all the best for this season and for achieving your goals!