Richie Porte stops short of calling compatriot Will Clarke part of the three-man entourage including a soigneur and mechanic that the Tasmanian took to Trek-Segafredo this season.
“I’m not going to say I brought Will Clarke with me because I think he’s here from his own merits. He’s a bloody good bike rider and happens to be one of my best mates as well,” Porte says.
Clarke has joined Trek-Segafredo on the back of a two-year tenure at EF Education First, with his own personal ambitions and to support Porte though not at the Tour de France.
For Porte the arrangement provides a sort of quiet comfort in the lead-up to a fourth concerted maillot jaune bid, which he left Sky at the end of the 2015 season to pursue.
“It’s always nice to have guys like that,” Porte continues.
The bromance does have its limits though.
“We room together occasionally but it’s not like we room together at every race,” Clarke muses. “We mix it up a bit. Richie is often in his own room because I think he likes his space. It’s good like that.”
The 33-year-old Clarke has come full circle at Trek. He joined the WorldTour with an incarnation of the squad (Leopard-Trek) in 2011 following a stint as a stagiaire at AG2R in 2010, which came on the back of a three-year tenure on the Australian domestic circuit.
“I’ve known Richie since before we were both cyclists, back when we were 12-13 year olds. We didn’t go to the same school, but we competed against each other in swimming, athletics, cross country, football, so we’ve known each other for a while. We became friends when we started racing bikes. He started a year or two before me and I followed into the sport after transitioning from athletics,” says Clarke.
“I’ve never been on a professional team with Richie. We’ve been teammates before at Praties back in 2008. It was nice to finally become teammates with him again and also at Trek. We always train together so we know each other quite well from Tasmania. It’s nice to have someone to do your off-season with as well.”
Porte and Clarke’s career paths since Praties have taken distinctly different turns. Clarke has moved back and forth between different WorldTour and domestic squads. He aims to exploit every task presented to him in 2019.
“I’ve only ever done one Grand Tour and I’m 33 years old so doing another Grand Tour would be nice,” Clarke says. “Winning a race would also be a nice way to make a success for myself this year. I haven’t won a race for about two-and-a-half years so it’s about time I won another one.”
Clarke all but ruled out supporting Porte at the Tour de France this season, with an eye to the other Grand Tours instead. Trek-Segafredo also has marquee sprinters like 2015 Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix champion John Degenkolb, who won a stage of the race in 2018, among others to consider in its line-up.
“It’s going to be tough to make the Tour team. If I made the team it would be great but I’m not expecting to. It would be nice to do the Giro or the Vuelta. I think at the moment I’m down for the Vuelta and a reserve for the Giro,” he says.
“You don’t really expect when you start to become professional, you just do it for fun and the experience. We’re all pretty lucky to have a job really. You can’t do it forever so it’s something you’ve got to try and make the most of. It’s pretty good.”