Richie Porte puts national time trial victory celebrations on ice to focus on road title

On Friday morning, Richie Porte will get on his bike and train as he normally would two days out from the Australian elite road championship. Before he does, he will press the pause button on any memory of how great he felt the day before when he won the 40.9-kilometre men’s elite national time trial at Buninyong, Victoria, which will have entrenched his billing as one of the favourites for Sunday’s 183.6-kilometre road title.

The 29-year-old Tasmanian realises he has a terrific opportunity to win two national titles, and that to achieve that he will need to be as focused as he was on Thursday. In rainy conditions, Porte clocked 51 minutes 50 seconds on the hilly course and beat two South Australians soon to attempt the world hour record – second-placed Rohan Dennis (51:58) and Jack Bobridge (52:17) who was third.

“I would like to enjoy this one [win] for the moment, but [Friday morning] eight o’clock, I’m back out on the road bike 3½ hours,” Porte said. “Sunday is a bit more of a lottery but I think … see how the race plays out, but I can take confidence from this.”

For Porte (Sky), Thursday’s win was his best against the clock since March 10, 2013 when he won the Col d’Eze mountain time trial in Paris-Nice that he also won overall. While Porte won the stage two time trial of the Criterium International on March 23 that year, the Paris-Nice win was the standard he wanted on Thursday.

“I am a happy boy …to win this time trial in such a class field, it’s fantastic,” said Porte whose season last year was marred by illness and health.

Porte praised Andrew Christie-Johnston, boss of the Avanti national road series team he raced for when named “Praties” before he went to Europe in 2009. Without full Sky team support in Australia until the Tour Down Under on January 17-25, Christie-Johnston has helped Porte prepare for the titles under the guidance of Sky trainer Tim Kerrison. “It was great to have Andrew Christie-Johnston [and] Avanti racing behind me … it was like being back in the old days,” Porte said.

Porte, who is off contract this year and hopes to lead Sky in the Giro d’Italia on May 9-31, realises what is at stake for him this year. “You can count on one hand the number of nights I’ve had out, drinking or whatever, letting the hair down. I’m focused. It’s a big year for me,” he said.

Meanwhile, after winning the women’s elite time trial, Shara Gillow was accused by second-placed Bridie O’Donnell of “sitting on” her wheel. Queenslander Gillow won the 29.3-kilometre race in 44 minutes 21 seconds from O’Donnell (Victoria) who clocked 45:22, while Taryn Heather (South Australia) was third in 45:30.

Asked how the two riders finished so close to each other – Gillow, 27, passed O’Donnell just before the line – 40-year-old O’Donnell, who started before Gillow, said: “I was in front, so she was probably benefiting from having me just in front. She made up all the damage on the way out. It’s very helpful to have someone to sit on the way back.”

“She should be ashamed of herself … a full-time professional athlete sitting on an old woman with a job like [mine].”

Gillow defended her ride, saying: “I was riding my own race …”

*Rupert Guinness is covering the Australian road championships courtesy of Cycling Australia

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