Richie Porte puts his stamp on his home tour, the Tour Down Under. He won the climbing stages on Paracombe and Willunga and showed off his early season form. He took the race by 48 seconds over Esteban Chaves of Orica-Scott and 51 seconds over Jay McCarthy of Bora-Hansgrohe
It’s just January and nobody in particular — Froome, Nibali or Quintana — is looking to explode out of the gate. Bigger objectives further down the road, no sense going to extremes right now. No need to turn the amp up to 11.
Nevertheless, the strong performance gives his BMC team every reason to believe he is well on this way, building form and confidence for his one massive objective: toppling his ex-teammate at Sky, Chris Froome, and winning his first Tour de France.
We’re reminded of Froome and Bradley Wiggins in their runs toward their Tour titles. Wiggins won pretty much every race of note on his way to winning his one and only Tour victory. Froome has also taken the view that winning a few big races before July is a good thing for his morale and team momentum and belief.
It was also another reminder of why last year’s Tour co-captain Tejay van Garderen is now off the Tour roster and instead riding to win the Giro d’Italia. At BMC, it’s all in for Porte, who would have been on the 2016 Tour podium if not for bad luck, including slamming into the rear of a race moto.
Porte was arguably the strongest climber in the race, stronger that Quintana who had suffered in the buffeting winds and weather in the opening weeks.
BMC firmly believe that Porte is a better option than Van Garderen and a rider who can win significant races on the road to Le Grand Shindig. Where Van Garderen’s steady diesel seems to need a slower, longer build-up, Porte appears to have the ability to start winning right away.
Granted, it’s January and it’s the Tour Down Under, a largely Australian affair without serious GC competition — or interest — from rivals outside the Land of Oz. It’s a nice win for Porte but everybody knows it doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme.
That said, it does mean something important for Porte’s confidence and the teams’ belief in him right from the start of the season. On a purely social and psychological level, it’s a useful victory. It establishes the tone and expectations for the opening of the season for the whole team.
Like Wiggins and Froome before him, Porte laid down his intentions right from race one. He plans to win and win as often as possible.