Richie Porte is ready to put this World Championships behind him as he looks ahead to Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastonge-Liège before packing it in for the season and refocusing on next year's Tokyo Olympic Games. The Australian admitted that the hilly Imola circuit better suited his compatriot Michael Matthews and was pleased to support him to a seventh place finish behind winner Julian Alaphilippe of France.
"It was such a hard Worlds," Port said in a post-race interview. "We knew it suited Michael better than me, and he did a great ride. For today, I just wanted to get through it. I want to do Tokyo next year, so it's always good to finish a hard race like this."
Porte started the elite men's road race just one week after finishing third overall at the Tour de France. He joined the Australian national team in a support role for Matthews, along with Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge, Chris Hamilton, Jai Hindley, Damien Howson and Nick Schultz.
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Matthews finished third at Milan-San Remo with an injured hand, but was disappointed to have missed out on the selection for Sunweb's Tour de France team. He went on to win the Bretagne Classic and raced Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of the World Championships instead.
The elite men raced 258km (nine laps) on a challenging circuit that started and finished on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The circuit featured two steep climbs – the Mazzolano and the Cima Gallisterna – and, as expected, the race came down to the final climb over the Gallisterna.
Switzerland's Marc Hirschi set a fast pace on the lower slopes that yielded a smaller and more select group of contenders in Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert (Belgium), Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), Primož Roglič (Slovenia) and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark). Alaphilippe made his winning move over the top and soloed to the world title, while Van Aert and Hirschi sprinted for silver and bronze.
Porte was distanced on the climb, as was Matthews, who remained part of a second chase group not far behind, and finished off the sprint for seventh place.
"It was a long day and super hard," Porte said. "Marc Hirschi from Switzerland rode a good pace [on the final climb], and Alaphilippe won, so it was a hard Worlds."
Matthews hasn't confirmed his race programme for the remainder of the season, but he will be leaving Subweb and returning to Mitchelton-Scott in 2021. Porte, who'll move from Trek-Segafredo to Ineos Grenadiers, said he was looking forward to Matthews getting more opportunities to race next year, and particularly at the World Championships set to be held in Flanders, Belgium.
"Michael hasn't raced a hell of a lot this year, but I'm looking forward to seeing him at Mitchelton-Scott next year and getting his opportunity that he deserves. He's one of the best riders on a circuit like this, and I think next year he's going to be back with a lot of fire in the belly."