The Hobart

Richie Porte Back in the Saddle

by Stephanie Williams
Richie Porte Back in the Saddle

With a Tour de France podium finish now under his belt, Stephanie Williams caught up with cyclist Richie Porte on his return to Tasmania. On a winning streak, he also recently held his crown as king of Willunga Hill at the Tour Down Under.

How was the aftermath of the Tour de France this time around, being a podium finisher? It was really a strange year with COVID and then also my wife gave birth to our second child, Eloise, at the start of the tour. It was something I always wanted to achieve, to get onto the podium there in Paris but then, in my mind, I wanted to be on the plane and home. And it didn’t look like I was going to get home that night because all the flights are gone.

So how did you end up getting home? Luckily enough my new team of this year, Ineos Grenadiers, had a private jet ready to go. So they got me home that night. It was just a nice touch to be honest. Just to meet my daughter for the first time. Standing on the podium in the Tour compared to that, it kind of paled.

That’s awesome. How amazing to have that all in 24 hours. Yeah, exactly. I didn’t really have the chance to celebrate or anything like that. And I was back on the road three-and-a-half days later. So it’s been a whirlwind. What was the reunion with your wife and your expanded family like? You come out of that race, the bubble, the COVID bubble, and it’s always a weird one to come home. But then it’s kind of nice because you go from being at a race where everything’s done for you, then back into newborn nappies. It’s a tricky one for me now with a two-and-a-half-year-old son – when I go away for so long there’s that wall he puts up, because I’m away so much. That was hard to overcome as well. Hotel quarantine isn’t easy and we did it in Perth, but it was actually nice to get that family time without the pressure of training and all that.

So it’s the silver lining isn’t it? With borders opening and closing all over the place, you’ve probably found the new COVID world trickier than most. Usually when we fly back from Europe, we go Nice, Dubai, a night in Melbourne then Launnie. But this year we had to do to Paris for a night and then Dubai, Perth for two weeks quarantine, then Melbourne and Launnie. Even getting into Tassie was hard because they didn’t put our COVID tests on our quarantine certificate. It was down to the last second that we didn’t even know if we were going to make it back to Tassie or not.

What was the first thing you did when you got back to Launceston? The first morning I was out training around Scottsdale, which is pretty much where I do all my training in Tassie. I just love it. And it was such a nice feeling to be back on home roads and having achieved a big goal of getting on the podium. If I wasn’t so unfit, it would have been like a ceremonious moment, but I struggled the whole way round! So it wasn’t the most enjoyable Scottsdale Loop I’ve done. I wouldn’t mind getting back down to Hobart and doing the Channel Loop again. I spent a lot of time in Hobart when I was a bit younger, but I haven’t done it for years. It’s the Scottsdale Loop of the South!

Does competition in Australia look different now too? It’s much more straightforward than Europe. The Tour Down Under normally has people coming from all over Australia and it wasn’t the same this year. It was actually nice to
be quite honest. You can go and have a coffee and breakfast and do it in relative peace compared to normal. And I’d say the same for the Tour last year. Without all the journalists that normally come and the huge crowds, it was kind of peaceful.

Do you think that played into your positioning? Yeah, a little bit. There’s just so much stress around the race and every day there’s something that gets blown out of proportion. It was just nice to not have all that noise from outside and just to ride
the bike.

Cadel Evens said he sent you a message the night before your final time trial on the Tour and that you actually answered his message. And he said on-air that it must have meant you were pretty relaxed about it all. How do you control yourself in the moment to have a performance like that? To be honest, it’s good to get yourself off social media. I haven’t got Twitter, I don’t have Facebook. Instagram is where I’m most accessible, but you can control that a bit more. I like having my phone with WhatsApp from people you genuinely want to hear from. Guys like Cadel reaching out, it means a lot to you. I mean, it was my first tour in 2011 when he won. So you do appreciate messages of support from people like that. But I think for me going into the final time trial, which was the second last stage, I was just so motivated. That’s why I moved from Tassie over to Europe to live, to nail that podium. I don’t think there was much that was going to stop me from putting in a good performance on that stage.

And do you find that some times you’re more nervous than others? Or do you find that you’re fairly calm now? The fact that I don’t get nervous is a little bit worrying to be honest. You stress more when you get older and you have kids, you don’t want to have big crashes or anything like that. In some ways it’s a young man’s sport. I think you’re more gung-ho when you’re younger. All the crashes catch up with you and you have aches and stuff that you don’t really want to have. We’re getting old, aren’t we?

This year you’ve signed on to a new team, Ineos. Will you have the opportunity to race for a place in this year’s Tour? Or perhaps your role is looking a bit different now you’re a podium finisher? Probably nailed it there! I signed on knowing I wouldn’t have the sole leadership, like I have had in the last five years, but that’s fine with me. I’d already signed, but then I got a podium in the Tour. Maybe it changes things a little bit, but at the end of the day, I think I can turn up at races a hundred per cent ready to go, then you just never know what’s going to happen on the road.

And the big question, what next? I don’t really know. Get through the next two years! It’s been a hell of a ride to be honest. To be able to ride a bike for a living has been a dream, but at the same time that I do look forward to having a more normal life. Read the paper and enjoy your breakfast without the stress of having to go and train in the rain or snow in Europe. I’m ready to become a full-time dad.

Does Tassie factor into that? My wife’s English, but I had that discussion of whether we stay in Europe or move to Australia, to somewhere like Adelaide. But she likes Tassie. It doesn’t make sense to live somewhere like Adelaide and have the family so far away. We may as well stay in Europe and closer to her parents. I appreciate Tassie much more now for what it is. That’s the thing with Tassie, it’s just simple. Everything’s just so easy. I absolutely love it. It’s amazing the amount of people who judge Tassie, but they’ve never actually been here. It actually pisses me off. Yesterday when I was in the supermarket, a couple from Brisbane, they knew who I was and they said ‘Where’s your other head?’ And it’s just like, ‘Where are your front teeth?’ It gets annoying, doesn’t it?

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February 2024

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