After Richie Porte secured the most significant victory of his career in the Paris-Nice stage race in France on Sunday, the big question for many is when will the Australian get to lead a team in a three-week grand tour, if not the biggest of them all – the Tour de France.
Porte’s overall victory was impressive. The 28-year-old Tasmanian took the race lead last Friday with a brilliant attack to win stage five. Then, after his team worked superbly to help him defend it, he won the seventh and final stage, a 9.6-kilometre mountain time trial from Nice to the summit of the Col d’Eze.
In light rain and misty conditions, Porte (Sky) won the race against the clock in 19 minutes 16 seconds – four seconds off the record of his teammate and reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, who did not race Paris-Nice this year. Wiggins won the event last year.
Porte beat American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) by 22 seconds and Columbian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 27 seconds in the time trial to extend his overall lead on Talansky from 32 to 55 seconds. Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2r-La Mondiale) was third overall at 1:21.
Porte later reaffirmed that his aim in the Tour this year is to help Wiggins and/or fellow Briton Chris Froome, who was runner-up last year.
”I’m still doing my apprenticeship, and I’m still learning off Bradley and Chris,” he said.
”I don’t expect to go to the Tour and ride for general classification. I’m in a good place at the moment and I don’t want to change anything.
”I’m going to take it as it comes. Whatever happens we’re going to have a hell of a team for the Tour de France. I will have my chances in other races.”
However, should Porte develop his own overall grand tour ambitions sooner than planned, it could become a crowded house at Sky. The team’s talented Columbian recruit, Rigoberto Uran, who was seventh in last year’s Giro d’Italia, has already spoken of his grand tour aspirations.
Porte, who joined Sky from Saxo-Tinkoff last year, could even be lost to the British team, considering he is off contract this year and will be on the market.
Other teams are sure to have interest in him now that he has confirmed at Paris-Nice the potential he first showed in his grand tour debut, the 2010 Giro, where he finished seventh overall.
Could Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE, which said it did not want a grand tour leader when it launched last year, now see him as a rider of interest with a view to next year?
Will BMC, led by Australian 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans and American Tejay van Garderen, reignite its previous interest in Porte, considering Evans will be off contract in 2014? Wherever Porte’s future takes him, it looks promising.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.