Nine months ago, West Australian cyclist Ben O’Connor was at a crossroads in his career.
Richie Porte! What a ride and end result in the 2020 edition of the Tour de France.
Porte has finally managed to hang tough for the full three weeks of the biggest annual bike race on the racing calendar.
A flat tire near the end of a stage nearly cost him big time and some lost time in the winds on an earlier stage certainly didn’t help, but third place in the Tour de France is a monumental achievement for an Aussie in the world of cycling – a sport generally dominated by the Europeans.
It was great to see another Australian stand on the podium after Cadel Evans’ win in 2011. Porte doesn’t have the natural all around talent and the absolute top end cardio capacity that Evans possessed, but what a tremendous result for a great rider from Tasmania.
Porte has always had the engine to succeed in a three week Grand Tour race but the combination of working as a domestique for several years, bad luck, and serious crashes have inhibited any previous podium finishes.
Signing with Ineos Grenadiers for the next two years indicates that his cycling future largely lies as a Super Domestique once again, however based on his result this year at the Tour de France, perhaps another crack at a podium finish in a Grand Tour isn’t beyond him.
Riding conservatively, in the bunch and not taking command of the peloton could be a sensible approach taken by team Ineos at next year’s Tour de France.
Porte should be able to conserve energy and could turn into a contender once again if his team leaders falter as was the case this year for Team Ineos.
Another possibility for Porte is to have a crack at one of the other Grand Tours and make a serious assault on the general classification over the next two years before his retirement.
Age is seemingly no barrier these days, Valverde from Spain has been going great guns well into his late 30s and is now only slowing down nearing the end of his long career.
Grace Brown has well and truly announced herself on the world cycling stage with a fighting second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege behind Lizzie Deignan and followed up by a great win in Brabantse Piji.
Based on these two results alone, Grace has shown herself to be the next big hope of women’s Australian road cycling.
Grace is also a very good time triallist, with a high place finish at the recent world time trial in Imola, Italy and podium finishes in the last two Australian Time Trial Championships.
It was great watching Grace attack from a small elite group and chase Deignan for the win in Liege-Bastogne-Liege race.
Another bonus was that unlike the men’s cycling races broadcast to Australia, the final stages of the race were on at a reasonable hour. It allows comfortable viewing rather than well after midnight when all the men’s races generally conclude.
It was very exciting to watch the power and stamina displayed by Grace and the time she able to put into the elite chasing group and take time off the leader Deignan getting to within ten seconds. Unfortunately Grace ran out of real estate in that race but made up for it big time in Brabantse Piji with the win.
With her all around talent, Grace will hopefully go on to challenge in Grand Tours over the next couple of years and be a force at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
It turns out the advice from her old man to give up running and get on the bike appears very sound based on Grace’s massive improvement during 2020.