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July 1, 2016 – Tasmanian Richie Porte says he is excited to finally have the chance to be a team leader at the Tour de France. The 31-year-old will be riding his sixth Tour de France when he takes to the start line on Saturday in the picturesque Mont Saint-Michel, but for the first time he will be riding for himself.
Having helped Sky pair Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013 and 2015) in their successful tilts at Tour glory, Porte will spearhead the BMC team challenge at the Grand Boucle alongside American co-leader Tejay Van Garderen. “I’ve never been in as good a shape and, more importantly, I’ve never been on a team where I’ve got my own opportunities,” said Porte.
“That for me is exciting, it’s a massive opportunity and that’s why I’m in BMC.” Porte switched from Sky to BMC this year, specifically to be able to step out of the shadow of his illustrious former team-mates and try to forge his own place in Tour legend. “If you’re in a team with Chris Froome then of course you’re going to be the back-up or the domestique. For me it’s a massive opportunity to come here and have my own chance and not have to sacrifice for a leader — this year it’s all about myself.”
Porte did have one tilt at the Tour two years ago after Froome crashed out on the fifth stage, leaving the Australian to take over as Sky’s main man. But he fell away when the gradient cranked up as Vincenzo Nibali powered to victory. Porte insists he fell ill, which scuppered his hopes, and while he hasn’t set himself a specific target, he believes he’s capable of rivalling the likes of Froome, Nairo Quintana and another former team-mate, Alberto Contador.
“I know that on my day I can climb with the best in the world, and at time-trialling I’m not so bad either. But it’s a long three weeks, a stressful three weeks, I’m just going to take it a day at a time. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe I had some chances.” Only one Australian has ever won the Tour, or any Grand Tour for that matter — Cadel Evans.
Now on the backroom staff at BMC, with whom he was Tour champion in 2011, Evans believes this Tour might have come too soon for Porte to seriously challenge. “I don’t think we should look at putting pressure on Richie for a win right now this year, but certainly he’s got a great opportunity and a great team behind him to utilise the experience he’s had as we move slowly closer and closer over time to building his own Tour and racing his own classification,” said Evans.
“Certainly for him he can calmly think about standing on the podium in Paris.” Evans also believes the shared leadership duties with Van Garderen will help rather than hinder Porte. “I think it fits really well that he has a co-leader. We have two leaders in BMC, that suits the personalities of both the riders well, where both of them are a little bit more comfortable being in a slightly secondary role rather than as a primary leader and having the expectations on their shoulders.”