The Australian raced the Tour of California for the first time this May after an illness hit spring and he came through stage 1 of the Dauphiné without problems, finishing safely in the lead group that contained stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen. After a long period of time in the United States, which was split between racing and altitude training, the opening stage of the Dauphiné between Aurillac and Jussac was a test of Porte’s fitness as well as his mettle with rain and an undulating parours splitting the peloton.
“It was quite a shock to the system, it was a hard day,” Porte told Cyclingnews at the finish.
“I mean we had a good day with young Niklas Eg in the breakaway and the guys were good around me, it was a hard stage but I don’t think it was a stage where you can really read into who’s where but it was a nice stage to get done. It was a technical finish with the rain and everything but it’s good to start again. It split a bit there on the climb with about 17 kilometres to go but I was in a good enough position to get to the front and stay there.”
The Critérium du Dauphiné is a race Porte has excelled in over the years. He came narrowly close to winning the overall in 2017 only for an ex-teammate to work him over on the final stage and Jakob Fuglsang to take the yellow jersey but the Australian has been a consistent GC candidate at the race since his debut in 2012. This year’s race will be decided by the stage 4 time trial and the three mountain stage that come at the end of the edition, and it’s during those stages in which Porte will find his exact condition in comparisons to other team leaders ahead of the Tour. The 34-year-old admitted that he is not in the form of two years ago but his fifth place overall in the Tour of California will have provided some much welcome confidence.
“I guess the mountain stages will really tell that and maybe the time trial, I don’t feel that where I was, for instance, in 2017 but who knows, it’s not been the easiest past six months. I felt pretty good today, I’m coming from altitude, I was in Utah at altitude and it’s always a funny one to see where you’re at but today was a good day.”
The continued talk of Vincenzo Nibali’s move to Trek-Segafredo shows no signs of abating. The Italian will leave Bahrain Merida at the end of the season and will join Porte next season. Nibali came up in the discussion at the finish of stage 1 in Jussac when Cyclingnews asked Porte whether he had considered that he could benefit from building form now rather than holding it back.
“Vincenzo [Nibali] is always a good example of when he’s good at the Tour, he’s always a little bit undercooked here, so we will take it one day at a time but it’s nice now just to be back racing,” Porte said.
The mention of Nibali provided the perfect time to ask Porte’s thoughts on the Italian moving to Trek-Segafredo.
“I’ve always got along well with him and you’ve got to have respect for a guy with a palmares like that, and if he comes it’s good for us and our team.”