Despite facing the numerous media commitments that come with a Tour de France podium finish, Launceston’s Richie Porte still found time for a chat with his home-town paper.
In an emotional and revealing interview from Paris, the 35-year-old detailed the numerous sacrifices behind his career, including missing the birth of daughter Eloise earlier this month, and thanked the many people who made it all possible.
It’s a tough one because Paris-Nice, Catalunya, Romandie, Tour de Suisse – anyone who knows about cycling knows they are big races. But this one certainly feels like the ultimate dream.
It’s probably not the biggest result but is the sweetest.
Ten years ago at the Giro (d’Italia) when I took the leader’s jersey in my first Grand Tour, it puts a lot of pressure on you and, truth be told, I’m not the best at dealing with that – just ask George Hyde, my psychiatrist friend in Tassie.
I can be a little bit prickly but I think this result will mellow me as a person. It’s the achievement I’ve always dreamed of.
The time trial was one of the most special days, especially when I was told by (team director) Kim Andersen with 3ks to go ‘you’ve got your dream, you are on the podium’. I still had a few Balfour Streets to go, which was eight minutes of gut-busting suffering to get there.
It was the most important time trial of my career.
I went in with the mindset I used to have when I started riding in Tassie.
The 8am bunch would meet at Fiveways and I was always late.
I just remember trying to ride full gas along the highway where it was always freezing and then down through Prospect. That was the approach we took to just keep it simple.
The theme of this Tour for me has been the duck on water looking calm but frantic beneath the surface.
You hear a bang because those tyres have so much pressure they go off like a shotgun. Everyone heard it and was looking around saying ‘Is it me?’ and I just knew it had to be me.
The director Kim said ‘ride on the puncture until we can do a bike change’ and I was taking corners on a gravel road with a flat which is not that easy and then had to hold my composure on a technical descent which plays on my mind a bit after what happened in 2017.
It was bloody painful but all worthwhile.
You just think back to where it all started as a kid watching the Tour on TV. Just to ride it on the other side of the world is a huge thing so to finally crack a podium is incredible.
In 2016 I would have been there without the puncture, in 2017 I was in the form of my life and right up there and in 2018 I was in great condition again, so to finally get through – with all the usual dramas of course – is an absolute dream.
I’m just so happy to get that iconic photo on the Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.
For a boy from Hadspen who just enjoyed riding a bike, to get to this point I have to pinch myself.
When I set out 13 years ago I was lucky to have people like Josh Wilson’s dad Michael, who was one of the cycling trailblazers, to help me.
It was not the easiest way and the amateur days in Italy were not easy. From Hadspen to Tuscany is a pretty difficult culture change. But I adapted pretty quickly, in 2010 I turned pro with Saxo Bank, the best team in world cycling at the time, and was one of the lucky ones that it worked out for and I’ve been part of the biggest teams so I’ve been very lucky.
Where I leave for training and put my cycling shoes on there’s a picture of (wife) Gemma and I when (son) Luca was born and it was hard when it dawned on me that I would not have that with Eloise.
But Gemma told me to go and to come away with a podium position goes a bit of the way to justify that call.
I don’t think she will resent me for not being there.
One of my best friends is Nico Roche and his dad (1987 Tour winner Stephen) was not at his birth because he was doing the Tour. He said to me: ‘I don’t remember it! Dad was just doing his job and setting us up for life and you should do the same.’ So at the end of the day it was the right decision.
It’ll be the sweetest thing to get back home. I’ve been counting down the days the whole race.
Now I’m a family man, my life has changed and it’s been the best thing for me that cycling is no longer the be-all and end-all in my life. It’s the stability I needed.
To meet my daughter for the first time will be pretty emotional and that’s coming from someone who is not usually very emotional.
The last stage finished too late to get a commercial flight home (to Monaco) but I was offered a place on a private plane so I could get there.
I’ll be on nappy duty straight away, the washing’s not going to do itself and I won’t have a chef for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I cannot wait.
On Thursday I’m out again for another 10-day block for the world champs (in Italy).
So it’ll be a bit hectic but my season will be over in two weeks time and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.
The announcement about my new team should also come out this week.
Colliding with a stopping TV motorbike while enjoying a potentially podium-delivering breakaway could be dismissed as a freak occurrence … if it was a [email protected] owes @richie_porte a break – preferably not of the bone variety, again.https://t.co/0GDNEMtzVk
— Rob Shaw (@TheShawThing) August 24, 2020
I have to thank everyone back in Launnie.
The messages of support I’ve had from Tasmania have been overwhelming and you really do appreciate that.
When you get up on the stage and they introduce you not as coming from Australia but Tasmania, that’s the most proud moment for me.
I’ve had messages from the Prince and Princess of Monaco and the Prince and Princess of Denmark plus so many people like Mark Webber, Cadel Evans, Alberto (Contador), Steve Waugh … it’s all just been really humbling.
Jack Riewoldt called me the king of Tasmania, but I think I’m more the prince compared to him.
Every parent would do their best for their child and my mum and dad (Penny and Ian) did that.
It was one of the proudest moments in my life to be able to pay them back for everything because it was a pretty big sum for them.
It was never their dream that I do this but they’ve been so supportive to allow me to chase this dream.
When I was riding, it did go through my mind the sacrifices they’ve made to allow me to live this dream and I just appreciate that opportunity.