It’s fair to say Richie Porte’s move back to Ineos Grenadiers has gone pretty well. The 36-year-old was second overall at the Volta a Catalunya in March (in an Ineos podium sweep), second at the Tour de Romandie in April (behind teammate Geraint Thomas) and, just this past weekend, he won the Critérium du Dauphiné for the first time in his career.
Porte’s win came courtesy of a late attack on the final climb on Saturday’s stage 7. He put enough time into his GC rivals there to move into the overall lead with one stage remaining.
That final stage was anything but a procession. Porte had to hold firm over five categorised climbs, and then found himself isolated on the final descent when his last teammate, Geraint Thomas, crashed. Thomas ultimately returned to the front, though, and helped Porte secure yet another week-long stage race victory.
List of riders who have won Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Romandie, Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de Suisse
— ammattipyöräily (@ammattipyoraily) June 6, 2021
The win was a significant one for Porte. Not only is it one of the biggest victories of his career, it also comes after finishing second at the Dauphiné on two occasions. Porte led into the final stage in 2017 as well but was ambushed by Jakob Fuglsang in a chaotic day’s racing and had to settle for second. The memory of that day was fresh in Porte’s mind this past Sunday.
Porte now heads to the Tour de France as part of a truly formidable Ineos Grenadiers line-up. Given his recent form, and given he finished on the podium for the first time last year, could we see the Tasmanian have another tilt at the Tour GC? Porte spoke to CyclingTips about that and more the day after his Dauphiné win; a day he spent riding reconnaissance for key stages of the Tour.
🥇 & 🥉 at the Dauphine yesterday…
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) June 7, 2021
CyclingTips: Congrats on a great week at the Dauphiné. You must be stoked.
Richie Porte: I’m over the moon to be honest and didn’t really expect to win any more races coming back here [to Ineos Grenadiers]. To win that – it was a nice, cheeky little win.
Going into the race, what were you hoping for? You weren’t supposed to be the leader right?
No, I mean, obviously, the majority of the guys there were the Tour team so we had G [Geraint Thomas], who’s the man for the Tour, and he’s in really good nick, and then Tao [Geoghegan Hart] as well. I guess I had an option to do something. When you’ve got numbers like we had, [other teams] can only chase one of us and that was the team’s plan: to send me up the road on the Saturday stage. And then you saw behind no one really had enough manpower to do much about it.
I guess the plan would have been for one of the other guys to attack if you’d been reeled in?
Yeah, look, it wasn’t an easy stage. We did some big climbs before that, but I think Movistar kind of took it up to us a bit there. Obviously, when you have the numbers like we had … [Enric] Mas came with me, but then wouldn’t work, which I can understand from a tactical point of view.
Going forward, I think the position we’re in compared to [Jumbo-]Visma or UAE[-Team Emirates] – it seems like they’re all a little bit cooked. It’s only three weeks to the Tour. We’ve still got [Richard] Carapaz at Suisse [to add to the Tour line-up]. In the long game, we’re in a good spot to be honest. We’re going to hopefully have numbers [at the Tour] to play different cards.
Your attack on stage 7 was obviously a crucial moment in the race. What were the other key moments for you? The time trial?
Yeah, it was. I mean, I kind of expected or hoped for more. I’d like to get that second [time trial] place in the Tokyo Olympics*. I’ve done some good time trials this year, but in that one I sort of went way too hard in the start and then the last couple climbs I really paid for the effort. To finish up close-ish, to put some good time into other GC guys, it was still a good day, but I kind of expected a little bit more from myself.
(*Australia has two spots in the men’s time trial at the Tokyo Olympics but only Rohan Dennis is a confirmed starter so far. An AusCycling spokesperson told CyclingTips that the national body would “make a decision as to filling this [spot] closer to the Games.”)
Tell me about the final stage. You’re wearing the leader’s jersey, but you’ve been there before and lost the race. Was that going through your head at all?
100%. I think G was probably the last guy in 2018 who actually had the jersey and had the team to defend it. In 2017 when I had it all hell broke loose, same as the last couple of years too. It just shows you can’t win these races without a team like we had.
Everybody got stuck in for me and I kind of had to pinch myself on the [Col de] Joux Plane [the final big climb on the final stage – ed.] where we had Tao, who won the Giro last year, and G who’s won the Tour, who were prepared to give it a crack for me. It was nice. And [even] then it wasn’t straightforward.
I had to change my bike there and went to try and put my Garmin on my spare bike and fumbled that. As much as you shouldn’t rely on things like a Garmin, you kind of do. That’s your kilometre marker, that’s where you get a bit of a gauge of your power and all that sort of stuff. It wasn’t ideal, but then I think G was kind of looking back, to see where I was and had his little tumble [on the descent off the Joux Plane] but then he came back and rode a super pace that no one could attack off.
It all worked out. And of course with me it was never going to be straightforward, was it?
What were you thinking when G crashed on that descent and you were left on your own for the final kilometres? Were you just hoping he’d come back?
Of course, having G and I there was a luxury. And even having Tao into the last kilometre of the [Joux Plane] climb as well – that was the best scenario that we could have ever imagined. But yeah, obviously had G been there the whole time, it would have been much more straightforward.
The Astana guys didn’t really throw as much as I thought they would at us. I was expecting they’d one-two me. And there were times that I did have to ride on the front for a bit. But I think the other thing is having two Aussies there: Jack [Haig] was never going to flick me and Ben O’Connor as well gave me a bit of a hand. So I wouldn’t say it was all under control – it was a little bit stressful for a little bit – but once G got back, it was all under control. But it still wasn’t an easy drag to the finishing line either.
What did you make of Mark Padun’s ride over the weekend?
Yeah, I mean, it’s super impressive. I’ve seen little glimpses of what he’s capable of doing, but especially on the Saturday stage, there was that one point where Mas dropped the wheel, as he does, and then of course [Sepp] Kuss and Padun got the gap, but to see how he attacked was quite impressive. Then to back it up and win yesterday’s stage – he’s come on in leaps and bounds.
I know you said after the last stage that you’re under no delusions about what your role is going to be during the Tour itself. But there’s obviously going to be a bunch of people back in Australia that’ll be thinking about whether you could be a chance to go for GC. What would you say to them?
I signed this contract to come back and help G. He helped me to win this; it’s arguably the biggest race of my career that I won. So I owe him and that’s my plan. But at the same time, I guess if we’ve got numbers to play …
I mean, Roglic and Pogacar can’t chase everything can they? Their teams aren’t what they were. Well, Pogacar didn’t really have a team last year anyway, but if Visma are not where they were last year then it will be hard to chase all of us. But I think when we get to the time trials, G’s on another level there.
It’s three weeks. The pecking order will work itself out.
And you guys have had multiple stage races this year with several of you on the podium. So you’ve definitely got the options there in terms of depth …
That’s the thing. Other than Paris-Nice where I crashed out, every race I’ve done this year, the team has won and had at least two guys on the podium. Also with Egan [Bernal] winning the Giro, we’re in a pretty good spot. The team’s winning races and G’s winning bunch kicks – it’s a happy place to be.
What does your prep look like from now until the Tour?
We’ve got a couple of days of recon and then back home [to Monaco] for a few days, and then altitude camp at Isola 2000 – so, close to home. Bit of time with family, I guess, and then straight into the Tour and then straight to Tokyo after that. So a quite busy seven weeks or so.
It’s been a nice move to come back here [to Ineos]. It’s a fantastic team and it’s almost like I never left, to be honest. People say whatever they want to say, but I think that’s why they win bike races. You see yesterday how everybody just gets stuck in for each other.