Saturday, March 09, 2013
Porte emerges as Team Sky's solid third wheel
By Julien Pretot
LA MONTAGNE DE LURE, France (Reuters) - Australian Richie Porte emerged as Team Sky's third man when he claimed the overall lead on the Paris-Nice race with an impressive victory in the fifth stage on Friday.
Porte held off American sensation Andrew Talansky's repeated attacks in the final climb to La Montagne de Lure before his only acceleration left the Garmin-Sharp rider stuck on the tar.
One of the key aides to Bradley Wiggins when the Briton won the 2012 Tour de France, Porte beat Russian Denis Menchov of Katusha by 26 seconds with Talansky coming home third 33 seconds off the pace.
Overall, Porte leads Talansky by 32 seconds ahead of the last two stages, a 220-km trek from Manosque to Nice on Saturday and Sunday's final uphill time trial to the Col d'Eze.
The fact that one of their Tour de France water carriers is in the frame to win one of the most prestigious week-long races - even if top names have shunned the event - is an indication of Team Sky's awe-inspiring power.
Porte, led by Sky team mates Kanstantsin Siutsou and David Lopez in the first part of the 13.8-km climb at an average gradient of 6.6 percent, would become the first Australian to win the "Race to the Sun".
"I've served under Bradley (Wiggins) and Chris (Froome) but also Alberto Contador (at Saxo Bank), that's three of the top guys to learn from," Porte told reporters.
"I think I'm happy to be riding for Brad and Chris. It's a lot of pressure and I'm not ready (yet) to step up."
The 28-year-old Porte, however, will soon be ready to lead a team on a grand Tour.
"Maybe next year I'll have a go at the Giro, I love the Giro," he said.
Porte won a stage in the 2009 'Baby Giro' and wore the pink jersey on his way to finishing seventh overall in the 2010 Giro also claiming the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider.
"I guess it will be time for me to step up and take the pressure, to go to a grand Tour and go for GC (general classification)."
Until then, Porte will be back to riding for Tour runner-up Froome and Wiggins, Paris-Nice being the only race in which he is allowed to fulfil his personal ambitions.
(Editing by Alison Wildey)