Richie Porte has joined Ineos Grenadiers on a two-year deal. The Australian spent four years at the team when they raced under the title of Team Sky before switching to BMC Racing and then Trek-Segafredo.
The 35-year-old, who took third overall at the Tour de France, had drawn interest from Israel Start-Up Nation for 2021, in a move that would have seen him link up with his former teammate and friend Chris Froome.
However, the lure of Dave Brailsford and Team Ineos was too strong, and the move will allow Porte to take a step back from duties of leading a team into Grand Tours.
"I had four fantastic years and some of the happiest memories riding here. I weighed up the options this year and I’m very motivated to be able to finish my career at such a fantastic team," Porte said.
"I’ve been privileged with the teams I’ve ridden with but the camaraderie in this team is just incredible. It’s a great atmosphere and it will be nice to come back and hit the ground running. There are still so many good people and friends in the team that I’ve worked with before.
"I’m motivated to be a part of more victories and to come back and race with some of the best guys in the world. I know what my role is – I know I can still win races on my day, but I see myself slotting in as a climbing domestique and it’s something I really look forward to.”
He enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Team Sky between 2012 and 2015, which included two Paris-Nice titles, second place at the Critérium du Dauphiné and several key support roles in Grand Tour wins for both Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
“Richie’s richly-deserved podium at the Tour de France once again demonstrated that he’s one of the best riders in the peloton. He’s a world class climber, time triallist, and if you are building a team to be competitive against the world’s best then you’d want Richie Porte by your side," team manager Dave Brailsford said in a statement.
"We already know how each other works, he knows how we race, and with the wealth of experience that Richie now has he has so much to offer the team. We really are extremely pleased to welcome him back!"
Porte is closer to the end of his career than at the start but he clearly wants more than one final paycheck before retiring. This move, however, signals the end of Grand Tour ambitions, but that in itself will ultimately suit the two-time winner of the Tour Down Under.
At Ineos he can return to his best role, in a team where had consistent success as a super mountain domestique. Ineos will in return benefit from an experienced and loyal worker for Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz, and Pavel Sivakov to utilize, while Porte is likely to retain leadership for his beloved Tour Down Under and a sprinkling of other week-long races.
His time at Trek-Segafredo was hardly a failure, but illness ruined his first season and the global pandemic broke up his momentum after another strong showing in Australia. His podium in Paris this year, however, represented a career highlight and offered proof of his talent.
Porte's form since the return to racing has been among the best of his career so far, culminating in a third-place at the Tour de France and suggesting that he still has a lot more to give.
With Trek bringing on Vincenzo Nibali last year, re-signing Bauke Mollema this summer, and then building the rest of their roster around youth, it was clear that they were looking to take the team in a different direction. It suits both Trek and Porte to split amicably.
For a while Porte was the best week-long stage racer in the world and he's won almost every major race of that length outside of the Critérium du Dauphiné. At Ineos the pressure will be lifted, no doubt, while the Australian should seamlessly adapt to the squad he departed from at the end of 2015.
Thank you @richie_porte for the emotions and great memories over the past two years. Good luck on your next chapter! pic.twitter.com/vP5YARLf5bSeptember 25, 2020