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Giro d'Italia

Sky: Porte still the best, despite Giro problems

David Brailsford says that Richie Porte has proven himself as one of the world's top stage racers even though he abandoned the Giro

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LUGANO, Switzerland (VN) — Australian Richie Porte should keep his head up and reset for the Tour de France. Sky considers him one of the best stage race cyclists, despite his Giro d’Italia problems and abandonment, and Chris Froome’s right-hand man for the Tour de France.

General manager David Brailsford leaned on the black Team Sky jaguar prior to the Giro’s stage 17 to Lugano and reflected on the season to date. Putting aside the Giro d’Italia, which Porte quit on the rest day Monday, he explained that Porte is number one.

“Despite the last two weeks, he’s been one of or maybe the best stage racers of the season,” Brailsford said. “You can’t judge Richie on the last two weeks given the start of the season that he had.”

Porte placed second in the Tour Down Under and fourth in the Volta ao Algarve, then went on a winning streak. He took overall victories in Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino.

The Giro d’Italia, like his grand tours last year, did not work out. He punctured and lost time in Forlì, and fell further behind with a crash in Jesolo. Hurting his knee and hip in the Jesolo fall did not help Porte over the weekend. He sank 30 minutes down the classification and abandoned on the rest day to reset for the Tour de France.

“It’s very easy just to say, ‘He didn’t finish, he had his opportunity [to lead a grand tour team], and it didn’t work out,’ but it’s not fair to write him off in that sense. It’s not fair or appropriate,” Brailsford added.

“He was up there with the best climbers in the races he did. Can he put it together for three weeks, who knows? He had his crashes and incidents, et cetera, but it wasn’t that he got dropped. It wasn’t physical, but of course it all counts.

With the Giro still to finish, Porte sits second overall in the WorldTour classification behind only Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Porte had his chance to lead Sky’s Giro d’Italia team in 2014, but fell sick and was called off the race. In the Tour, he was Sky’s plan B after Froome abandoned, but lost time on a summit finish still suffering from pneumonia. After resetting over the winter, working with trainer Tim Kerrison closely, and cutting his alcohol consumption, he returned a new man: Porte 2.0.

“Last season and this season are two separate things. To be fair to Richie, he went to the Tour in support of Froomey, he had a challenging season. Whereas this year, it’s probably his best-ever season in terms of the first half, he won three big races, all the queen stages, he felt great.

“He came to the Giro as the leader, which was different. Your level of expectation and where you are at is mentally different than going into the Tour and finding yourself as plan B.”

Porte 2.0 should rebound quickly providing the medical checks in Manchester, England, give him the all-clear. Brailsford explained that he could train at altitude and then race in the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour de Suisse or the Tour of Slovenia depending on where he is at.

“It’s important that he finds for himself … A rider has to be motivated from inside for the goal, and I think he is [for the Tour],” added Brailsford.

“They have great memories, him and Froomey riding together in the Tour, that’s something he can get excited about.”

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