Richie Porte, 31, won Tour Down Under for the first time having twice been a runner-up, and the former Team Sky man is relishing his role as team leader for the coming season.
Porte’s early-season preparations will step up another notch next weekend (January 29) when the BMC leader returns to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
“This race has cemented itself in the calendar and it’s the biggest one-day race in Australia, so it will be nice to do it again,” Porte said. “Watching last year when Pete (Kennaugh) won, you back yourself on those climbs on the circuit,”.
After the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Porte will travel back to Europe where his Grand Tour dreams last year continued to be ruined by bad luck. A stage two puncture and a crash caused by a TV motorbike on stage 12 saw him finish fifth in the Tour de France when a podium spot beckoned.
“I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt to lose time like I did with the puncture and crashing, and things like that. It’s a bit of a bitter pill to swallow,” he said.
“Taking those out I would have been there on the podium, which is a massive dream for any kid who grows up watching the Tour, to stand on that podium in Paris. But at the end of the day all I can do is move on and hopefully turn up again with the form to challenge for the win or the podium.
“Having grown up watching the sport, to go into the Tour de France as a leader of one of the biggest teams in the world, you kind of pinch yourself. It’s a massive opportunity and hopefully in July I give the Aussie sporting fans plenty of sleepless nights.
“For endurance athletes, this is the peak age. Cadel won the Tour when he was 34 and from the point of view that the team’s backing me, it probably is the most important season of my career.”
Porte says his good friend and former teammate Chris Froome wasn’t bulletproof in France.
“At the end of the day he’s only human and 2014 (when Froome crashed out) proves that. He’s not unbeatable,” Porte said. “I can just do my race and try to put him under pressure where I can.”