Richie Porte: “I think I'm happy to be in this team riding for Brad and Chris.”
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Friday, March 08, 2013

Richie Porte: “I think I'm happy to be in this team riding for Brad and Chris.”

by Ben Atkins at 3:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
 
Paris-Nice leadership changes nothing for Australian in Team Sky’s Grand Tour plans

richie porteWhen Richie Porte (Team Sky) pulled on the Paris-Nice yellow jersey at the end of today’s fifth stage to La Montagne de Lure, it was the first time that the Australian all-rounder had led a WorldTour stage race since the 2010 Giro d’Italia. Porte’s solo stage victory has put him into pole position in the race, with two stages to go, and the 28-year-old looks set to successfully defend the victory of teammate Bradley Wiggins from last year.

The stage was won with the use of the tactics that were so effective for Wiggins in 2012, with Team Sky’s mountain domestiques setting a tough pace on the final climb. Once the lead group was reduced to just the overall contenders, Porte was able to jump away in the final kilometres and ride on to victory.

“What can you say, it worked like clockwork like always with Sky,’ he said afterwards. “Full credit to the whole team. To Xabier  Zandio, [David] Lopez Garcia and [Kanstantsin] Siutsou, I don't want to forget anyone. These guys were just brilliant. Full credit to them. Thanks a lot.”

Porte’s usual role at Team Sky - and at Saxo Bank previously - is as a mountain domestique; he has come to Paris-Nice as the leader of the British team, however, which carries a different sort of pressure.

“Yeah obviously, I served under Bradley and also Chris at Sky but also Alberto Contdor in Saxo Bank,” he acknowledged. “There are lots of things to learn from them. It's different having the pressure on but thinking back to three years ago in this race I had horrible memories. So I'm happy to be here with the pressure on. I just won a stage in Paris-Nice. I've got my lion. I always wanted that.

“The bad memories were probably coming back to the bus and being told by my team manager I was too heavy to be a pro rider,” Porte explained. “It wasn't nice to hear. And the crosswinds and last year's crash when I was in pretty good form. Maybe next year I'll be very happy to come back.”

As well as in last year’s Paris-Nice, Porte also played the role of super-domestique in the Tour de France for Wiggins, and then again the Vuelta a España for Chris Froome, and the Australian confirmed that - even though he looks set to take the biggest victory of his career to date - he is not yet ready to challenge either for their leadership role in the Grand Tours.

“I think I'm happy to be in this team riding for Brad and Chris,” he said. “I'm not quite ready to step up, maybe not this year but maybe next year. We'll see what we do at the Giro. I like the Giro, I wore the pink jersey as a neo-pro, there were nice memories for me. It would be nice for me to step up and get a bit of pressure and go for general classification in a Grand Tour.”

Preparing to take the race overall then slip back to his usual domestique role

The fortunes of Porte and outgoing race leader Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) could hardly have been more different on the final climb to the finish. While Porte was supported by his teammates for most of the 13.8km to the top, Talansky was alone after his own domestiques had been working hard to contain the stage’s four-man breakaway for most of the stage.

The American was determined not to be dominated by his rivals, however, and attacked several times in an effort to escape. In the end though, it was Porte that got away, while the rest of the overall contenders marked each other behind him.

“He didn't have any team-mate around him while I had two trains in front of me, Siutsou and Lopez,” said Porte. “Maybe I was in a clearer state of mind. It's weird to see the yellow jersey attack but full credit to Talansky, he was brilliant in the last couple of days. I'm not going to say anything about tactics but it worked perfectly for me that they were watching each other at the back. Chapeau boys.”

Porte now leads Talansky by 32 seconds with two tough stages to come and, while he is refusing to count his chickens, Porte is confident that he can hold on to take the final victory.

“Well I'm not a bad TT specialist and col d'Eze is in my backyard,” he said, referring to Sunday’s final mountain time trial. “There's always tomorrow. It could be a tricky stage We have a good team and some level-headed cool and calm guys in the team. It's not over, is it? I'm looking forward to the TT, put it that way.”

With a number of different nationalities at the front of many of the sport’s major events in recent years, Porte could be seen as part of a new generation of cycling; something which the 28-year-old Tasmanian acknowledges.

“It's a bit like the changing of the guard,” he said. “There's Tejay Van Garderen and Talansky.  I'm not really that young now. But now there's Canadians winning Grand Tours, Australians and  Englishmen. It's not just a generation, it's a whole culture change. It's an exciting times for an Australian to come into now.”

While he looks set to take overall victory in Paris-Nice, Porte realises that he will soon be back to his accustomed role in support of his usual team leaders.

“Just Paris-Nice,” he confirmed. “My season is in a pretty similar sort of frame as Chris Froome's. I might soon be back getting bidons and just enjoying my life.”

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