Richie Porte proved on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez today how important team mates can be. On the final climb at the end of a hard day for Team Sky, Porte rode up to his leader Chris Froome and then fetched food for him from the team car.
It was a move that cost both himself and Froome a 20 second time penalty (and director sportive Nicolas Portal a 1,000 Swiss franc fine) as riders are not allowed to feed from their team cars in the last 20 kilometres.
But with Froome on the verge of the hunger knock, he knew it was worth the risk, and knew he had Porte to thank for going back and getting him some gels. “Richie’s a really great guy, he put [aside] all of his ambitions in this race to keep the jersey on my shoulders. He did a great job, he paced me through it.” Froome said.
Despite Porte’s pace setting, Froome lost time to Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez when he started to suffer from a lack of food. Crucially he put time in to Saxo Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador and Roman Kreuziger, both of whom suffered on the last climb. All the riders competing for the overall were several minutes behind stage winner Christophe Riblon who took the first stage win for France this year.
After the stage, Froome was full of praise for his training partner. “He’s the second best GC rider in this race. He’s had to lay aside his ambitions to help me keep the jersey. That’s what cost him. If he had opportunity to ride solely for himself, he’d certainly be on the podium.”
Porte’s strength today is reassuring for Froome with two days still left in the Alps including Friday’s 204.5km stage over five classified climbs. “I think I’ve been pretty good all Tour haven’t I?” Porte said. “I had an easy day yesterday and the the GC guys had a full gas day.”
“It’s nice to get through today. Everybody was a little bit stressed about this descent [of the Col du Sarenne] but we sat back, relaxed and saw Kreuziger and Alberto attack and use a fair bit of energy. There was no need to stress. We still had a few teammates and we knew Movistar and Katusha were never going to let that go.”
“We saw it wasn’t really a tactically brilliant move. I think they might have paid for it a little bit.”
Porte has now climbed in to 20th position on the race and may climb higher still if he finishes by Froome’s side over the next two days.