AX 3 DOMAINES, France (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) won the stage and donned the yellow jersey on Saturday, but not without help.
Pete Kennaugh ripped up and down the Col de Pailhères, then handed off to Richie Porte at 7km out, just after the base of Ax 3 Domaines in stage 8 of the Tour de France.
For his work — just as in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Critérium International — Porte claimed second and moved into second overall.
“It’s incredible, I think I’ve shown this year I’m thereabouts,” Porte said to waiting journalists. “I was second in most of the races I’ve done. This is the big one, but we can’t get too carried away.”
Porte’s pace pushed out Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), and eventually enabled Froome to ride away from Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).
“You have to ask them why they could not keep up. Look at us all season, we are so consistent,” Porte added.
“This has happened all year. Look at Dauphiné and Paris-Nice. This is not really a massive surprise.”
Porte says the tempo he and Kennaugh set deterred any would-be aggressors.
“It’s not easy to attack from that,” he said.
Kennaugh sits further back on the GC, but his work was just as important. Porte and Froome credited their success to the Brit.
After a hefty track season, Kennaugh was not quite sure what to expect in his Tour debut.
“I was a bit nervous about how I was going to perform, whether I could live up to the job. Today, I proved why I was selected,” Kennaugh said while warming down.
“It’s so easy to commit to Froome, the way he handles all the riders and respects us no matter what our jobs are.
“He’s most consistent rider I’ve seen in my life, I’ve never seen him have a bad day all season. He’s very logical about what he’s doing — he’s not emotional, his attacks are precise and he knows if he’s able to hold that power.”
Porte placed 51 seconds behind. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was Froome’s nearest rival at just over a minute down. Overall favorites Contador, Evans and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) finished further back.
“It was always going to happen. They have the best rider in the race, and they wanted to show it,” Talansky said.
“They make it as hard as possible on the first climb, then Richie takes over, and they blow it to pieces. … You know it’s going to happen. You know it’s coming. Unless you’re having a very special day, you know you’re going to explode. They’ve been doing it all year.”
Back at Sky’s bus, Porte grinned and indicated there is more to come.
“We got a nice time trial coming up [on Wednesday], and we look to put more time into them,” he said.