NICE, France (VN) — Even though he’s Australian, Richie Porte (Sky) will have “home road” advantage in Sunday’s decisive climbing time trial to decide the 2013 Paris-Nice.
The Tasmanian is based in nearby Monaco and knows every twist and turn of the exposed, 9.6km limestone climb towering above the glamourous Cote d’Azur in what will be the final battleground of the Race to the Sun.
“I’ve made some hard efforts up there in training and some days I’ve ridden it three or four times, so I know it quite well,” Porte said. “I met with my mechanics last night and we’ll have a good bike ready. I’m looking forward to it.”
Porte, who took the stage win and the overall lead on Friday up Montagne de Lure, enters in the pole position with a 32-second lead to Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who grabbed a 10-second time bonus with his stage win and another second at mid-race, slipped into third at 42 seconds adrift. A half dozen other riders are packed in within 12 seconds back.
“I would rather be 32 seconds ahead than 32 seconds back,” Porte said. “I prefer to be in my position than theirs.”
Talansky safely made it through Saturday’s long trudge in stage 6 to remain second overall at 32 seconds. By his own admission, it’s Porte’s race to lose.
“I will be on the podium,” Talansky assured VeloNews. “It’s too bad the time difference is what it is.”
Talansky was still smarting following Friday’s action-packed finale up Lure when Porte countered after the American uncorked three attacks in the closing kilometers while wearing the yellow jersey.
Porte’s perfectly timed attack left Talansky wondering what could have been different had he rode more defensively, but he isn’t losing sleep over spilt milk.
“I feel great. I will try to win the TT,” Talansky said. “I am confident I am going to have a good day. Porte would have to have a bad day [to lose]. I will give it everything Sunday.”
Porte is a solid, if inconsistent time trialist, yet he rolls into Sunday’s showdown brimming with confidence. His Sky teammates protected him perfectly all week and have delivered him in yellow to the start line for Sunday’s showdown with all expectations to secure the overall.
When the stakes are high, the 28-year-old can produce big rides, with highlights including fourth in the 2010 world time trial championship and ITT stage wins in the Denmark and Castilla y León tours in 2011.
Talansky and Porte squared off in last year’s Tour de Romandie, with Talansky taking it to Wiggins in the treacherous downhill then climbing, 16.5km time trial at Crans Montana, finishing second by just 0.7 second. Porte was 17 seconds slower.
In last year’s Paris-Nice on the same Col d’Eze course, Wiggins beat Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DMC) by just two seconds, while Porte languished at 1:44 back in 28th.
Riding to defend yellow will give Porte all the motivation he needs.
“I showed yesterday I have good climbing legs right now,” Porte said. “Talansky beat me last year in Romandie, but that was a long time ago.”
Talansky and Westra, tied with Chavanel for third at 42 seconds back, are the most dangerous riders for Porte. Yet he knows he would have to lose nearly four seconds per kilometer to Talansky to lose the jersey.
“Talansky and Westra, after what he did in last year’s time trial, those are the two guys who will push me hard,” said Porte. “I just want to be quicker than both of them.”
On paper, Westra could be Porte’s most dangerous rival, at least based on his ride last year. The Dutchman on Vacansoleil-DMC couldn’t respond Friday when Porte attacked.
“I hope I can have a ride similar to last year’s,” Westra said. “Porte is riding strong and it’s a lot of time to try to make up. I will keep pushing until the end.”
Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale), fifth overall at 49 seconds back, is a threat for the podium. So is Peter Velits (Omega Pharma), seventh at 53 seconds adrift.
In fact, only 12 seconds separate second-place Talansky and ninth-place Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida).
Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is hopeful of pushing up from sixth at 52 seconds back onto the final podium. Fifth overall last year, van Garderen was 14th in last year’s Col d’Eze stage, riding to 14th at 1:15 back.
Chavanel revived his chances for the podium with his stage win Saturday and will be riding full gas to retain his third place overall, now 42 seconds slower.
“I have incredible form right now and time trialing is my specialty,” Chavanel said. “I am going to give everything to try to reach the podium. Beating Porte looks to be unrealistic.”
It seems the race is on for the podium, unless Porte decides to stop en route and have one of his favorite beverages, Boages Beer from his native Tasmania.