Richie Porte Q&A: “I’m totally ready for the next chapter of my life”
Next week, Australian Richie Porte will end his 13-year professional cycling career by competing in the Tour of Britain. As he prepared for his “last dance” on the pedals from his European base in Monaco, Porte caught up with Rupert Guinness to share how he feels about the dawn of the next chapter in his life.
Rupert Guinness: You are about to start the last week of your professional cycling career and your last race, the Tour of Britain. Are you going to focus on a result or on memories?
Richie Porte: It will probably be more memories. I intended to get in shape and do it really well, but life got in the way a bit – one thing or another. I keep getting sick and having two kids at home prime on my bike. That doesn’t mean I haven’t ridden…
I had a good conversation with a friend of mine, [former professional cyclist] Simon Gerrans, and he said: “It’s going to be hard after the Giro d’Italia to get motivated.” But for me, going into the Tour of Britain with a youngster like Tom Pidcock who wants to win the race – my goal is to be there and help him out and try to enjoy my last race.
You turned professional in 2010 and you had a great season, including a stint in the pink jersey of the Giro. When you think back to those days, what comes to mind about travel?
I don’t think anyone has an easy path to becoming a pro. I don’t think anyone in the peloton received it as a gift on a silver spoon. But when I think back to those days and the struggle I had… I went through the Italian amateur system and it was quite difficult. So going to take the pink jersey on my very first Grand Tour was absolutely amazing.
But at the same time, I loved my job and everything, but I’m totally ready for the next chapter of my life. It’s become a job and there’s not much I’m going to miss about it to be honest. I think it’s a good thing to do, at this point. I am ready to have a normal life.
In cycling there is so much focus, fairly or not, on the Tour de France and a rider is often judged on their performance in the Tour. You had a fabulous podium (third overall in 2020) and good performances, but if you look at your career and other races you have some fantastic wins under your belt – Critérium de Dauphine, Tour de Suisse, Paris-Nice to name a few.
Last year I won a TIS award [Tasmanian Institute of Sport] Athlete of the year and they were transfixed on a podium at the Tour, but I had also won the Dauphine that year… for me it was probably the biggest race (victory) of my career. That or Paris-Nice or Tour du Suisse.
A podium in the Tour is incredible, but winning these races is something really special. It’s all about the Tour, but some of these other races that I fielded in my early years and then finally winning them, it’s like a real achievement.
You’ve also had a number of setbacks in your career, including on the Tour, including crashes. How did you recover from a setback, until you could put aside the obvious disappointment and then move on?
My setback came with my fall from the 2018 Tour at the height of my career. I was as good as ever. But I hadn’t really hung that up [it happened when] I was in my best form in my career… It was more about coming back from an accident. When you look at a rock wall at 70 km/h and you choose what you are going to do and everything that goes with it…
“Oh, he’s a bad descender.” But people who say that don’t know what happened, that obviously I had a mechanical problem. Things like that were probably the most important to overcome because it’s not easy. But you just have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off… It’s no different from other professions.
For me, the most important thing is when people in general lose loved ones. You can never compare a bike race to that. There’s always someone much worse than you.
You don’t do the Road World Championships in Wollongong. Australia looks to have plenty of championship depth in all categories. What do you think of the state of Australian cycling? Is Australia well placed?
I think so. This year we saw Jai Hindley win the Giro. My teammate [Richard Carapaz] was running with him but I was thrilled for him. He’s a great guy. We also have Caleb Ewan who is the fastest sprinter of his day. It’s a shame he doesn’t have the team to support him. There’s Michael Matthews with that fantastic Tour stage win over Mende. It was great to have Gerry and Val Ryan pouring money into the sport the way they do. [with the Bike-Exchange team]. Then there are the girls with Amanda Spratt…a brilliant career and now she’s gone to Trek.
It’s really an exciting time… Then there are the young people. Luke Plapp, I have to know him as my teammate. There is the next Cadel Evans riding there to hopefully win the Tour very soon.
At the time of the world titles, you have just finished your last race. Do you watch them on TV?
Sure. One thing I enjoyed this year is being on the couch watching the hectic stages of the Tour and not having to be part of it. Obviously, I was riding with guys who were going to do the Tour and we hear about the stressful stages.
I’m at this point in my life now [where I’m] watching someone else take the pressure and the stress. I hope we can have good Australian World Championships.