Sky's Richie Porte rode around Annecy, France, this morning in the best possible position ahead of the Tour de France. He is sitting shotgun to red-hot favourite, Chris Froome while gaining experience to win the race for himself in the future.
"We train together a lot and spend a lot of time with each other," Porte told Cycling Weekly via telephone yesterday. "Every day we are at home in Monaco, we go out together. That's a fair bit of time."
In that time, Porte has grown into a candidate for Tour victory. While helping Froome win the overall, the 28-year-old Tasmanian finished second in the Critérium International, eighth in the Tour of Romandy and on Sunday, second in the Critérium du Dauphiné. When Sky let him loose on his own, he won Paris-Nice.
With Wiggins sitting out this Tour, starting June 29 in Corsica, Porte begins as vice-leader. If something should happen to Froome, Porte will lead Sky's charge.
He seems perfectly capable.
In the Critérium du Dauphiné, for example, he placed second by more than a minute over Daniel Moreno (Katusha). Sky's Tour rivals placed much further back: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at 3-12 minutes, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) at 4-25 and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) at 9-04.
Porte worries only about helping Froome win the overall in Paris, saying if something happened to Froome he could deal with the pressure.
"I know he's the leader," Porte explained. "I know him well enough in training and all of that, to see that he's stronger. The goal is to win the Tour and for me to support him. I have good enough form and the ability to help him deal Alberto and those guys."
He hopes, as in the Dauphiné and as Froome did with Wiggins last year, that he can stand on the final podium. Riding around Annecy today, previewing the final time trial, he thinks about the Paris finish and his future as a Grand Tour racer.
"God yes, it's a dream to stand on the podium. That's every bike rider's dream to be up there on the Champs-Élysées," Porte said.
"The Tour is just harder because it's longer. The Dauphiné wasn't an easy race and we were one-two. That's the goal. The other guys say they are chasing form, but I don't see how they can recover from two and a half minutes or whatever they're down in a dead flat 30K time trial. That's a lot of time to pull back in three weeks."
Porte wants to target the Giro d'Italia's overall classification next year. Now, he is training and concentrating on Froome's Tour win.
"We are not at the top of our game just yet," he said. "I'd be a little worried if I was Contador or Rodríguez. As quiet as they are, I think they're a little bit stressed."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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