• BMC's sporting director Fabio Baldato with Richie Porte. (Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography )Source: Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography
Promoted Richie Porte sealed a nostalgic win at the Tour Down Under on Sunday and so gloriously began a season campaign he is set to play ‘Plan A’ all throughout.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
22 Jan 2017 - 6:51 PM  UPDATED 22 Jan 2017 - 6:52 PM

Porte (BMC) finished the sixth and final criterium stage, which Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) won, safely in the bunch to secure his career first title victory at the WorldTour opener.

“I think back to nine years ago, this race really kicked off my career,” he said. “This is where I came as a wildcard, and then two years later I was in the WorldTour. I’ve been close two times before so it feels fantastic.”

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Richie Porte confirmed his first career Santos Tour Down Under overall victory as Caleb Ewan again proved unbeatable on the final stage of the 2017 race.

The rookie that was trying for a place in the WorldTour then in 2008 is now a 31-year-old that will reach the pinnacle of his season with a fully backed maillot jaune bid this July.

“I was probably 10kg lighter,” Porte joked when asked to compare the two riders. “I’ve seen the photo of me in 2008 floating around here and I looked like I’d eaten quite a few pies.

“It’s been a journey for sure. It’s had its ups and downs and there have been so many great people that have helped me. I’d like to say thanks to my parents and the teams that I’ve ridden for over the years.

Hopefully, it will be a great season for me. I’m really looking forward to heading back to Europe and getting stuck in.”

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Tour de France champions often have a right-hand man and consolidating contender Richie Porte may have discovered his at the Santos Tour Down Under this week.

The Tasmanian has had a rough relationship with luck but seemingly didn’t need it at the race he ensured he was ready for physically with a sound pre-season.

Porte proved the best climber at the tour, taking the leader’s jersey by winning the first hilltop stage on Wednesday and all but secured it with a fourth consecutive victory on the second feature hilltop, Willunga, on Saturday.

“I did a good two weeks in Tassie and before that I was super motivated in the UK - I was on the home trainer for hours at a time,” he said of his preparation that ultimately is all for the Tour de France.

“I’m coming to my prime and I know I haven’t got that many more opportunities to have a full crack of the Tour so I’m going to make the most of that.”

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Porte’s victory could also partly be attributed to a growing maturity with which he confidently expressed his aim to win Down Under and get his name on the honour roll, plastered all over the central race hotel in January.

“If there was pressure on me here from the team I didn’t feel it. Nothing was really ever said. It was just in the media people were saying I was the favourite. I feel like I’m growing up slowly as well and I can deal with whatever they throw at me,” he said.

There was reward also in a repayment of faith to BMC, which put all its money on a single a Grand Tour contender in France this season, over a shared leadership bet.

“That’s exciting that I’ve got a team built around me for the first time ever. I’ve often been the Plan B at whatever. BMC Racing team has put a lot of faith in me this year and I think today I’ve shown them I can repay that faith they’ve put in me,” he said.