BESANÇON, France (VN) — Richie Porte (Sky), currently second overall, is going about the Tour de France in his own way. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins was quiet but cool in the peloton, Chris Froome gave clear orders each morning. As for Porte, he cuts through the peloton like a sharp knife behind the black train.
“Everyone has his way to do things,” Sky’s unexpected Tour leader said. “Brad was quite reserved, and Chris had his way, which is quite laid back. Me? I want something, I want it right now.”
Porte spoke to about 20 journalists on the Tuesday’s rest day. He trails overall leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) by 2:23 ahead of the Tour’s biggest mountains. He gave every indication that he is racing for the win, and not second place, when the Tour resumes Wednesday in Besançon.
Already, in the fight for Monday’s stage win to La Planche des Belles Filles, he took up the chase as soon as Nibali attacked. Porte only eased up in the last seconds when it became obvious that the others were taking a free ride.
His bullishness in the stage impressed his teammates. Geraint Thomas explained that Porte is not afraid to yell and push to get his way though the peloton in key moments. Doing so, Porte could fight for the stage and race with Nibali.
“Nibali’s up the road, that’s the race,” Porte said. “In some ways, it’s good to see that I’m the one taking the race up and taking the responsibility, but it’s frustrating that the others are just marking each other.”
Sky gave the reins to Chris Froome in the 2013 Tour de France to follow up Brad Wiggins’ 2012 win. Its idea this year was to help Froome defend his title, but it had to change plans after Froome crashed and abandoned on stage 5. Porte then became the man in charge.
The 29-year-old Tasmanian has been building slowly towards this moment. He wore the leader’s pink jersey, won the white jersey, and placed seventh overall in the 2010 Giro d’Italia — his first grand tour. In 2012, he was the opening act for the Wiggins/Froome show, and in 2013, he led Froome to Paris for the win.
“I’d say I’m about four to five kilograms [8.8-11 pounds] lighter than I was at the 2010 Giro,” Porte said. “I was a chubby little neo-professional then. Everyday was a struggle and a fight then, but it was my first grand tour and it was a big result then, but it’s no different to now considering the mental approach I have to take. I’ve improved. I’m in my fifth year as pro now. Sky won the last two Tours, so I’m confident in the Tour backing me and putting me in a great position.”
Pre-Tour discussion was centered around Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Froome before the start in Leeds over a week ago. Both riders crashed and abandoned, however. Nibali carries the yellow jersey with a healthy lead but he keeps looking over his shoulder, especially at the rider closest to him.
“Richie was in the same Mastromarco amateur team that I raced for,” Nibali said. “I already turned pro, but was still around Tuscany training and we saw each other a lot,”
“He’s a serious rider,” the Italian said. “That day he pulled the Dauphiné this year, when Alberto Contador took the lead, he went all day and whittled the group down to only me, Andrew Talansky and Contador. That means a lot. To be honest, it seems as though the others gave too much at that race, but Richie is working his way to his best form.”
Porte, if he were to win the Tour, would give Sky three consecutive wins and become the second Australian in history, after Cadel Evans, to win the Tour.