As part of Escape Collective’s membership initiatives, Richie Porte has been chosen to be our first ever, 2023 Member #1. You can find out more about this announcement and what that means, here.
Around this time last year, Australia’s Richie Porte completed his final race as a professional – the 2022 Tour of Britain – and hung up his wheels for good. In the months that followed, he, his wife Gemma, and their two kids packed up their apartment in Monaco, moved to Porte’s hometown of Launceston, Tasmania, and started building a new life.
Porte had enjoyed an excellent career as a pro racer. He claimed overall victories at most of the major one-week races – Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Romandie, Volta a Catalunya, and Tour Down Under – he finished on the podium at the 2020 Tour de France, and he ended up with a total of 33 wins to his name. But looking back now, Porte is well and truly happy to have his pro racing career behind him.
As he told Escape Collective this week, he’s in a good place. He’s spending consistent, quality time with his family, he’s swimming a lot, and he’s free of the often-stifling constraints of life as a pro cyclist. And best of all, he’s just become Member #1 at Escape Collective which, I’m sure we can all agree, is Porte’s greatest achievement yet.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Matt de Neef: What’s dad life like at the moment?
Richie Porte: I was up at 5:10am this morning so I could go and have a swim. I’ve got a good bunch of mates that I swim with and enjoy that. I did like 10 km this morning, then the kids have swimming lessons so it was straight into that. And then I was back home, and I’ve been on the tools.
My family are pretty much all tradesmen. My little brother who’s a builder, he’s building a garage, partly to house all my bikes and a couple of cars that I’ve gotten along the way. So that’s sort of what’s been filling my days. I’ve quite enjoyed it.
How many bikes and cars do you have to fit into this garage?
I have 16 bikes that I have to get up on the wall. And then I wouldn’t say I’m massively into cars, but through my career – it’s an Aussie thing – I bought like one of those [Holden] W1s, the last HSV they made, and one of the last Maloo utes they made. That’s just something that I have. The kids can decide what they want to do with it once I kick the bucket. [Laughs]
So you’re building a garage. Did you do any work as a tradie before your sporting career? Have you got any skills in that area as well?
I have no skills whatsoever, I’m probably more of a hindrance. But it’s also nice just to have to use your brain a little bit. I guess, it’s a nice position to be in. I can take it as easy as I want, or jump in and do something. I guess also when you’ve lived half your life on the other side of the world, it’s nice to have a bit of time just to hang out with your siblings. I enjoy it. It’s good.
So is this what a typical day looks like for you now? Swimming, time with the kids, and building a garage?
Yeah, pretty much. I don’t get out on the bike all that much. It’s funny, because it sort of almost stresses me, just the process of getting ready to go and ride my bike – it’s quite stressful. I guess it’s almost like work still to get out on a bike. But once I’m out and riding, I really enjoy it.
It’s a good release, and just to be able to, you know, not have to hit targets and just ride your bike. The reason why I went and rode my bike in the start was I enjoyed it so it will be nice to get back there.
What is it like riding without targets and goals?
I’ve kind of found that, especially with swimming where you don’t have something to train for or a target, it becomes like … I was just going out to the pool and swimming just ’cause. Whereas, I guess I am goal-driven still. And I think once the weather gets better … I’m doing the Cape to Cape mountain bike race [in Margaret River, Western Australia, in October] and a few other bits and pieces. I’m going over to Taiwan with Simon Gerrans in September, so when I have that to actually train towards, it will be easier to get out and do it.
Strava tells me you’re doing big distances with your swimming. Are you going to be doing some swimming races? Are you going to get back to racing triathlon? Or is it all just for fun?
Definitely not triathlon. I did an open-water race down here in Tassie – I think it was in April, out in the ocean. I really enjoyed that, just out of your depth, out of your comfort zone. It was a 5 km swim and it just felt like an achievement when I finished it.
My good mate Will Clarke’s down here as well and he’s kind of up for a few of those – there’s a series of them. So that’s really something I would enjoy doing.
Have you been keeping up with pro racing? Did you watch the Tour de France?
Yeah, ish. I haven’t really watched a hell of a lot. I watched the Giro because, you know, G [Geraint Thomas] was perhaps going to win, and I enjoyed that. But yeah, I watched Rohan [Dennis’] last time trial as well. But yeah I didn’t really watch that much of the Tour. Obviously I caught up with the results because I’m still, I guess, a fan of the sport. It’s still probably the sport that I follow the closest.
I think I have more respect for people who stay up in Australia, or New Zealand, and watch the racing and then go to work. I couldn’t do that. It was a bit of an eye-opener.
Who else do you like watching race at the moment? Is there anyone that that excites you?
Wout van Aert. Mads Pedersen. I love watching Mads race because he’s just such a good bloke. But I must say I’m a massive Wout van Aert fan. I would have loved to have seen him win Worlds. I think everyone agrees that he deserves that.
I like that with Wout too – he’s a prolific winner but he is human. Things go wrong or he has an off day. I think everybody would just love to see him win Worlds. Because he’s a good fella as well.
How much time are you getting to spend with the kids nowadays?
Normally my wife does the school drop off and I get to do school pick up. I enjoy that. That’s the thing now, just that continuity with the kids, instead of having to, you know, ‘I’m gonna go to a race and I’ll be away for 10 days.’ And it’s just been really nice to be in one place, really, for the first time in my parenting life. It’s just a joy being a dad. As much as cycling was my life, just to have something else has been a good distraction.
What are some of the things that you’re glad you don’t have to do any more now that you aren’t a pro?
I don’t miss any of it for a second. Not one thing. I had that conversation with my brother the other day. He’s like, ‘Why do you ride a bike if you’re not really enjoying it?’ And then he asked ‘When did you stop enjoying it?’ And I’d say when I had that crash in 2017 that really changed something in my brain.
I guess you’ve seen what happened in Tour de Suisse [Gino Mäder died after crashing in this year’s race – ed.] – when things go wrong, that’s when it really hits home. And you kind of applaud guys like Pierre Latour who came out and said how it is because it does feel like the sport is getting more and more dangerous. It really does.
I was gonna ask you if there’s anything you miss at all about being a pro, but doesn’t sound like it?
No, I don’t think so. It’s nice to be able to eat what you want. I really enjoyed my career, but it is nice to get to that point where I’m very content in my retirement.
The other thing being from the opposite side of the world – that’s a huge commitment, isn’t it, to move your life over there? That’s probably one thing that people don’t give the American, Canadian, Aussie, Kiwi, South African riders credit for. That is a massive thing to go over there. And then, you know, you don’t have that support network around as well. That’s a massive factor.
What do you think your relationship will be with the sport of cycling, going forward? Could you imagine yourself doing media stuff or working as a sports director or rider agent? Or are you just kind of done?
I think I’m kind of done. What I’d like to do, though, is to help some of the young kids down here in Tassie. I guess I’ve got the contacts to be able to help out. Cycling Australia [AusCycling] is so track-focused and, you know, that’s great around the Olympics, but I’m sorry to say … I think some of the institutes, they’re more worried about medals than giving some of these young kids a career.
It is a great career on the road, or mountain bike. Whereas, Australia is just so focused on track, and it’d be nice to try and help kids to go to Europe and ride professionally.
You must be excited about the prospects for your fellow Tasmanian, Felicity Wilson-Haffenden, newly crowned U19 TT world champ?
Yeah. I loved it when they interviewed her and said ‘Has this been your childhood dream?’ And she’s like, ‘Well, not really’ – she only just started riding a couple of years ago!
So that’s the other thing – I’m gonna have more to do with Andrew Christie-Johnston’s team [Wilson-Haffenden rides for Team BridgeLane, run by Christie-Johnston. Christie-Johnston set up the Praties team, which Porte raced with in 2008 and 2009 before turning pro – ed.] That’s the thing, you do come across people like Andrew who are respectful. He’s given me space to come back and get my life into gear.
Once you’ve come from Europe … my wife and I said we felt like kids. We had no idea really on all the things you had to do to set your life up permanently here in Australia. It’s still an ongoing process and thank God we’ve got good people around us who have really helped to do that. And then you have guys like Andrew, who’s been really patient, and that’s something that’s pretty close to my heart is his setup.
It’s great – you see ARA and they’ve stepped up. It’s cool that, outside of the institutes, there are individuals – Gerry Ryan too – who are giving kids an opportunity.
What do you reckon you’ll do with the BridgeLane team?
Probably just more like sit in. Tour of Tassie, I’m gonna go and be around the car. Andrew said that ‘You’ve got that much experience and we’d love to use it.’ I think I can pass that litmus test with kids. I do get along with kids and that’s something that motivates me, to just help in whatever way I can.
So it sounds like you’re not entirely done with the sport, but you’re more interested in being involved at a local level rather than in the European, WorldTour scene.
I’d say so. My big goal is to be around my kids as much as possible. So, yeah, I don’t want to be jumping on a plane a few times a year.
It looks like you’ve been enjoying your gravel riding, and you mentioned MTBing earlier as well?
Yeah, my mountain bike’s finally on its way. It’s being built in Melbourne with Specialized. But yeah I’ve got a gravel bike. That was something that I really enjoyed is like the event in Beechworth [the Beechworth Granite Classic in April – ed.] And I must say that was probably the most fun thing I’ve done. I just did a few days around that with a sponsorship thing with Shimano and I just enjoyed that.
If you’re going to be away from family, if it’s fun, it makes it much more worthwhile. And those sorts of events are a lot more fun.
I’ve got to get a quote from you about how excited you are to be Member #1 of the Escape Collective. That’s gonna be the biggest honour of your career, right?
The thing is, there was a cycling website that we can’t talk about anymore. But whenever people were like ‘Oh, what’s the best website to keep up to date with?’ It was always CyclingTips. I really liked what Wade did with it.
But then, you know, when CyclingTips kind of went to the dogs there, I remember chatting with Wade – because Wade was a guy that I kept in touch with – and then when he told me his idea, and then when it all sort of started … I love the stories, not just the results. I really like the stories and what Jonny Long’s doing and like, Iain [Treloar], is such a brilliant investigative journalist and I love that he sort of sticks it to the UCI every now and then. It’s just a fantastic website.
When Wade asked me [to be Member #1], it was almost embarrassingly humbling to be given. And I’ve got like my Fyxo jumper with the number one. It is nice to stay up to date with the sport but not have the full-blown, blow-by-blow race breakdown. I like that there’s brilliant stories in there as well.
Before we wrap up, is there anything else that’s on your mind? Anything you want to share?
The races I did watch this year were like the Cobble Classics like Flanders and Roubaix. I watched Flanders with my son, who was four at the time, who had gastro. So that’s kind of why I watched that one [laughs]. But then he was like, ‘Who are we going for?’ And it was like ‘The guy in the white.’ And that was Tadej [Pogačar]. It is kind of cool to be able to say you’ve raced against those guys. He’s going to be a legend of the sport.
That’s the thing – I’m probably too freshly retired to miss it but I’m sure there’ll be things that I do miss about it.
What did you think of this story?