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Ride like the pros: Richie Porte

BikesEtc
18 Jan 2017

Having just won Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, our friends Bikes Etc look at how to emulate some of Richie Porte's riding characteristics

Featured video: Richie Porte winning Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under on 18th January.

Having just won stage two of the Tour Down Under, we decided to take a look at home favourite and resident nice guy of the pro peloton, Richie Porte. The Tasmanian has made a name for himself as an incredibly hard-working ‘super-domestique’, but since his move to BMC last year, the former triathlete has been thrust into the team leader position and will be aiming for top spot on the Tour de France podium in 2017.

Fact file

Name: Richard Julian Porte

Nickname: Fish

Age: 31

Lives: Monaco

Rider type: All-rounder

Professional teams: 2010 -12 Team Saxo Bank
2012-15 Team Sky
2016- BMC Racing Team

Palmarès:  Overall winner Volta ao Algarve 2012; Overall winner Paris-Nice, 2013, 2015; Australian National Road Champion 2015; Stage winner, Tour Down Under 2014, 2016, 2017.

Have a good attitude

What? Probably Porte’s most notable feature is that big smile of his. The positive outlook that the star from Down Under possesses isn’t just a product of his sunny Antipodean background, but is a key part of his mental strategy. Despite finishing on the podium at Paris-Nice and fifth at the Tour de France, last year wasn’t Porte’s best season with a crash at the Rio Olympics a notable low point. But Porte typically turned these set backs to his advantage. ‘I think I had quite a lot of bad luck along the way,’ he says of 2016, ‘but I see that as a motivating factor for the coming year.’ 

How? Maintaining a strong positive outlook is commonplace these days for many elite athletes, not just cyclists – and with good reason. In a study published by the Association for Applied Sports Psychology, research showed that injured athletes who used positive imagery healed quicker. These ‘fast healers’ took personal responsibility for healing, had a positive attitude, used creative visualisation, had high determination and were less fearful of recurring injury. 

Take in the views

What? Being a pro racer, Porte spends a lot of his time riding his bike with serious goals in mind, but every now and then he can relax and enjoy
a ride for its more rewarding qualities. ‘When you’re racing flat out, especially in the Tour, you don’t get to take in the surroundings, even though they are often some of Europe’s most picturesque regions,’ he told us. However, on the second rest day of this year’s Tour Porte did exactly that. ‘It was one of the rare occasions where you can enjoy it, while also riding our bikes. For my team-mate Amaël [Moinard] and I it was also a nice opportunity to catch up with some quiet and relaxed chat away from the bells and whistles of the Tour de France,’ he said afterwards. 

How? Many of us forget the simple joy of riding a bike thanks to power meters, heart rate monitors and KOMs, so occasionally it’s nice to simply ride a bike for pleasure. It not only helps stop you from losing interest in your training plan, but it means you’ll include recovery rides as part of it. These slow, stop-and-smell-the-flowers jaunts in the saddle are an important way for both your body and brain to get over heavy training, shifting lactic acid and reminding you why cycling rocks in the first place. 

Get Aero

What? Like many other pro riders, Porte chooses to ride an incredibly tiny frame and adjusts it to his size using a longer stem and saddle rails. Despite moving up in frame size from his miniature 46.5cm Pinarello Dogma at Team Sky, the Tasmanian Devil now rides a similarly titchy 48cm BMC Teammachine SLR01. This enables him to enter a super-tucked position while on the bike to ensure he loses as little energy as possible by combating wind resistance. 

How? We’re not suggesting you buy a really small bike. Pro team riders have whole teams working on how to fit them on the smallest bike possible without creating discomfort or wasting energy. However, there are lessons to be learned. The biggest culprit slowing you down on a bike is your body. Decreasing the total surface area of a rider reduces resistance and makes you go faster. Getting a bike fit is the best way to do this. It’ll not only help you into a secure and aerodynamic position, but will also allow you to be comfortable. ‘Bike fits give you as much structural stability on the bike as possible and get everything tracking in straight lines,’ says Spencer Wilson of Personal Bikefit in London. To find out more, visit personalbikefit.com.

Build your body’s total fitness 

What? A big component of Porte’s training is cycling but being both a former triathlete and an Australian, you’ll also find him in the water, too. ‘If you’re fit in the pool that’ll translate onto the bike,’ he said, with his love of making a splash earning him the nickname ‘Fish’. Training in a complementary sport like swimming can help develop your core (vital for better bike control) and increase your body’s endurance. When Porte’s health started to go south due to an illness, he turned to the pool to regain fitness. ‘The doctors told me to spend lots of time in the water to help my recovery,’ he said. ‘It works every muscle from head to toe.’

How? While riding your bike you may find that your fitness and performance hit a plateau. This could be down to motivation or simply reaching your physical limits. Like Porte, many athletes will look to improve their output through other channels – for him it lays in the pool. Other riders like the legendary Fabian Cancellara use yoga for greater flexibility and concentration. Doing a complementary sport that works the bits of your body that your bike doesn’t can improve both performance and your desire to ride. 

Eat Vegemite

What? Like most Australians, Porte is a big fan of Vegemite on toast, declaring on Twitter recently that it’s ‘the best way to start the day!’ Before you sneeringly suggest that he probably got paid to say that, let’s look at the evidence. First, Porte’s an Aussie and those guys are brought up on that stuff, the same way we are with Marmite. Both Vegemite and Marmite are stuffed with B vitamins (thiamine and riboflavin) which help provide energy to kickstart your brain in the morning. Combine that with the folic acid, which fights fatigue and can also be found in both, and you’re halfway to bossing the morning. 

How? Eat more Marmite! What? You can’t stand the stuff? Madness! Oh well, then at least make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin B and folic acid on your breakfast plate. Eggs, wholegrain breads, baked beans, as well as some fortified breakfast cereals will get you moving. To quote Team Sky chef, Henrik Orre, ‘Breakfast is important. You need to make sure you’re well fuelled for the ride, that’s half the job.’ 

Be a mate

What? Porte is known for his fierce loyalty. At Team Sky he worked tirelessly for his team leaders and in 2013, was arguably the most influential
rider in the Tour de France as he protected Chris Froome right up to the finish line in Paris. His jovial attitude and willingness to help mean other riders often want to return the favour – in the 2015 Giro d’Italia, Porte suffered a flat at a pivotal stage in the race. With no service car close by, Simon Clarke of rival team Orica-GreenEdge, offered him his wheel. Unfortunately, this is against the rules, but it does show how well liked Porte is.

How? Doing your fair share at the front of the pack or waiting with someone as they fix their puncture will put you in good stead should you ever drop from the chaingang. Not only will people be more inclined to help you out, but it’ll help you build a good rapport with your fellow wheelers out on the road. After all, one good turn deserves another, as Saint Luke once pointed out.

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