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Right now, it seems things can't get much better for Richie Porte. But as the man who so emphatically decimated the Tour Down Under field said so himself, it can, and most likely, will, writes Anthony Tan.
Cycling Central
18 Jan 2017 - 9:59 PM  UPDATED 19 Jan 2017 - 9:33 AM

Since he broke his right scapula in the closing stages of the Rio Olympic road race on August 6 last year, Richie Porte had five and a half months to think about winning the Tour Down Under.

Though in actuality, he's been thinking about winning the race for at least three years.

"As good as he was on Paracombe; as good as he'll be on Willunga, it won't be till July that we'll see the 31-year-old perform to his utmost potential."

In 2014, he finished fourth overall, 10 seconds behind Simon Gerrans, who won his third title. One year later he came second, just two seconds in arrears of Rohan Dennis, now his team-mate at BMC Racing. After Dennis took a flyer on the climb of Paracombe and others watched and waited too long, he now admits playing cat-and-mouse cost him the race win. If he got another opportunity like that, he said, which so happened to present itself Wednesday, he would not hesitate. "I knew I had to back myself and I knew I had the form to do it. I made a mess of (Paracombe) two years ago, so to come back and make amends like this is just a dream."

Porte lands a big punch on Paracombe
Richie Porte (BMC) staked his claim for a first Santos Tour Down Under title with an explosive performance which delivered him the Stage 2 victory and race lead.

Last season was his first with BMC Racing; it was all about showing (read: proving) what he could do at the Tour de France. He therefore did not arrive in January in anywhere near the form he had in 2015 or this year - by contrast, in a recent interview with Cyclingnews, Gerrans, who claimed a record fourth title, said "I think I was in my best ever condition for the 2016 race" - though nevertheless, was still the best climber; a point proven when he claimed a hat-trick of victories atop Old Willunga Hill.

If, on average form, I can finish nine seconds behind a guy in super condition, then surely, with a little more training, a little more focus, I can win Down Under and still be at my best for the Tour...

And that's the thing.

As good as he was on Paracombe - and boy, was he good; as good as he'll be on Willunga - a fourth win already feels a forgone conclusion - it won't be till July that we'll see the 31-year-old perform to his utmost potential. This afternoon, he said so himself: "The legs are good, the team is better than my legs, they were incredible today, so it's good signs to come, not just for the Tour Down Under but 2017."

Porte may sacrifice Willunga in TDU title hunt
Richie Porte brimmed with confidence after he lay first claim to the Santos Tour Down Under on Wednesday, marking a solo victory on the opening hilltop finish to assume race leadership.

That's right, folks: we still ain't seen nothin' yet. Barring rotten luck like that which befell him on the second stage of last year's Tour, Porte has a genuine chance to make the podium and, under the right conditions, possibly even win the race.

For now, though, we'll have to be content with watching him at three-quarter throttle, which, as we've just seen, is still head and shoulders above the rest.