Australian Richie Porte made headlines one year ago exactly when the Giro d’Italia finished in L’Aquila. Today, just north up the road in Le Marche, he controlled the race for leader and team-mate, Alberto Contador.
“Last year, nothing really went wrong for me,” he told Cycling Weekly. “Easier being an unknown? For sure, when I look back on it now.”
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Porte, in his professional debut, held the race lead for three days and finished seventh behind Ivan Basso. He also won the white jersey of best young rider. It was a stunning first year when you combine it with his time trial win in the Tour of Romandie a week before the Giro and fourth in the Worlds time trial.
His name, though, hasn’t made as many headlines this year. There have been two close calls in time trials – Castilla y Leon and Romandie – and a promising third in the Paris-Nice stage race.
“Paris-Nice was probably the best result so far this year,” he added. “The season’s long and there’s plenty more racing to go.”
The Tasmanian hopes to debut in the Tour de France. His role would be a similar role to the one he has in the Giro, helping Saxo Bank leader Contador.
Contador and Saxo Bank have to wait until next month to finalise their plans, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said it will rule on Contador’s doping case. He tested positive for Clenbuterol last year at the Tour, was cleared by the Spanish Federation, but faces a UCI appeal.
His thoughts are now only on winning the Giro d’Italia, his second after the 2008 edition.
Porte will be one of Contador’s key helpers. As with yesterday and today, he’ll be leading his Saxo Bank captain ahead of the stages’ key moments. The work is different from last year, when he led for himself and marked his rivals.
“I am totally different bike rider now, mentally, than I was last year,” Porte said. “I was a nervous wreck last year.”
He added that next year he hopes his experience pays off and he starts to win. It may come in Saxo Bank colours or it may be in those of his home country’s new team, Green Edge.
Porte has not made a decision yet, but will likely do so before the Tour de France. If he selects Green Edge, it wouldn’t be because he believes a team’s nationality makes a difference.
“Not at all,” he said. “I didn’t come through the whole Aussie system, I came through the Italian system. This year, for example, our team is a lot more Spanish flavoured and it’s still the same.”
The Giro d’Italia heads north tomorrow and on Friday, into the mountains. Porte said its there in the Dolomites that he needs to be at “the top of his game” to help Contador. Last year, he faced the high-mountain stage to Asolo in the pink jersey, he sits 105th overall this year, but with much more experience.
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Giro d’Italia 2011: Stage reports
Giro d’Italia 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Giro d’Italia 2011: Live text coverage
Giro d’Italia 2011: Start list
Giro d’Italia 2011: TV schedule