• Richie Porte at the start of stage 2 of the 2018 La Vuelta a Espana (Getty)Source: Getty
Australia's national technical director Brad McGee believes there is no cause for concern over world title aspirant Richie Porte’s condition despite his recent struggles.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
29 Aug 2018 - 10:26 AM  UPDATED 29 Aug 2018 - 10:35 AM

Porte crashed out of the Tour de France in July and suffered from gastroenteritis in the lead-up to the Vuelta a Espana - where he is currently competing for stage wins after dropping out of overall contention on day two.

The Vuelta traditionally serves as a litmus test to the UCI Road World Championships, this year in Innsbruck, Austria where Porte will carry Australia’s gold medal hopes in the elite men’s road race.

“Condition, or his strategy at the Vuelta is not a concern. We’ve touched base and I’ll leave that up to Richie and his team to implement. Then we just look forward to digging deep post-Vuelta on a full worlds focus,” said McGee.

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Before the Vuelta, Porte spoke of opportunities in the race's third and final week. Clearly struggling only after four stages at just over 40 minutes in arrears, it’s not clear if he’ll continue all the way through to Madrid given his world title objective. Asked if it were more beneficial for the Tasmanian to finish the Vuelta or exit early, McGee was nonplussed.

“A few years ago, if you wanted to be competitive at the worlds it was all about the Vuelta and that was the only pathway. I think for various reasons it’s not critical and there are now several pathways to worlds success,” he said. “My position here, you’ve got to let go control of them. We’ll put together a worlds campaign with what comes from the Vuelta and any other events…”

In Spain, Porte said the general classification at the Vuelta was never a goal of his, instead pointing to next month’s 258.5km title that covers 4,670m of climbing.

“The other thing is there is so much racing to go,” McGee continued. “We’ve selected earlier than usual, which is great, but it also makes my nervousness and anxiety open for a little bit longer than usual! Every morning I wake-up here, jump online and scan through results. The first thing you want to know is that everyone is fit and healthy.”

A combination of youth and experience comprise the squad supporting the 33-year-old Porte as well as Jack Haig, who is a Plan B for Australia, on September 30. McGee says road captains Rory Sutherland and Simon Clarke will be imperative in steering the ship.

Cycling Australia reiterated a “clearly defined strategy” ahead of its worlds assault, the second under high-performance director Simon Jones, who McGee defined as the missing piece of the puzzle.

“Condition, or his strategy at the Vuelta is not a concern. We’ve touched base and I’ll leave that up to Richie and his team to implement. Then we just look forward to digging deep post-Vuelta on a full worlds focus,” said McGee.

“Until we were clear that Richie was available we couldn’t go too far. It was wonderful he put his hand-up and was super keen for this course,” McGee said. “I don’t need to go too far [on strategy]. Richie, like all athletes, he’s got his strengths and challenge areas and we’ve got to support those challenge areas and really try and elaborate his strengths. That’s why we’ve got that broad range of athletes, from old-hand, experienced riders to young and youthful climbing legs.

“The more you look at it and break it down, you start to really interpret the course and find a way to apply strategy to it,” he continued. “To be honest, when it comes to men’s elite, I’m really leaning on Rory and Simon to play a big hand in that final strategy build. They’ve got the experience, the respect from their peers and already we’ve started that process, bringing that leadership group together and nutting it out.”

Watch the UCI Road World Championships LIVE with SBS. Details TBA. 

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