OYONNAX, France (VN) — Richie Porte’s “gutsy” ride to second in the 2014 Tour de France is impressing his Sky teammates and encouraging them further to get behind his push for the win.
“It is not like overly aggressive,” teammate Geraint Thomas said. “It’s not like he is threatening to kill someone’s kids or something. It’s just that real gutsy like … I guess the Tassie [Tasmanian] in him, just fighting for that wheel.”
Porte took over after Sky’s initial leader, Chris Froome, crashed and abandoned in stage 5 to Arenberg. Porte then worked his way up to second overall after 11 days of racing. While others have suffered crashes, abandoned, or just slipped behind, Porte has moved ahead.
On Monday’s La Planche des Belles Filles stage, he was the only one to take up the chase after Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) attacked for the stage win and yellow jersey. Thomas crashed and fought his way back, but was more impressed by his teammate’s fight.
“Without swearing I don’t think I can,” Thomas said when asked about Porte’s aggressiveness. “Especially, as you come over the top of a climb, everyone is fighting to be at the font for the descent, he lets people know he is there.
“He shouts, he leans on them a bit, he gives them a bit of aggro. It’s good to see. It’s good to see that fight. You really know he wants it.”
Porte raced to seventh overall in the 2010 Giro d’Italia and won the young rider classification. Since he left Saxo Bank for Sky, he worked for the team’s leaders and had some opportunities to race for himself, including when he won last year’s Paris-Nice. Thanks to those experiences, he appeared to naturally slot into the leadership role when Froome abandoned.
“And he has stepped up. He is suddenly even more aggressive, if that is possible for him,” Thomas continued. “He is like, ‘C’mon, let’s do it.’ And he is always fighting for that position. He doesn’t let your wheel go if you are helping him move up or whatever. He gets up a few riders and lets them know he is there. That’s kind of what you want. You want that aggression where he gives everything.”
Thomas worked for Bradley Wiggins in the 2011 Tour and Froome in 2013, but he explained that Porte has own personality in the pack.
“Brad’s more … quieter. He doesn’t say a lot. You are not quite sure what he is thinking sometimes,” Thomas added. “‘Froomey’ is more sort of, ‘Right boys, this is what I want today.’ And Richie is aggressive and he really fights. That’s all you want.”
Thomas is gaining from his experiences working for team leaders like Porte. Already this year, the team’s brass gave him a chance to lead at Paris-Nice. He held the yellow jersey for two days, but a crash forced him to abandon.
General Manager David Brailsford said that Thomas will have more opportunities and if it works out in the next years, a chance to impose his own characteristics as Sky’s Tour de France leader.