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TOKYO (AFP) — Richie Porte (Sky) is the archetypal loyal lieutenant, a man you can count on in a crisis, a man who sacrifices himself and his own ambitions for the greater good of his team.
But next year, the likeable Australian is going to tackle a grand tour for the first time as a team leader.
And the 28-year-old says he is ready for the new challenge and looking forward to leading Sky’s push for glory at the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
“Obviously the big goal for me next year is the Giro. I haven’t really sat down and talked to the team about it but I think it’s the next step for me,” he said during a publicity event in Saitama near Tokyo on Friday.
“They want to develop me into a grand tour racer and that’s hopefully going to be my first big opportunity to lead a team. I’d like to start the Tour Down Under, then Paris-Nice, I’d like to go back and defend that too.
“But come July I want to be there in England for the start [of the Tour de France]. I do think I can do a good Giro and come out and be good in the mountains and help Chris [Froome] there.”
Even as he looks to embark on the next step in his own professional growth and development, though, in the back of his mind he still has to concentrate on his domestique role for the current Tour champion.
That was a role that Rigoberto Uran got tired of as he decided to leave Sky at the end of this year and take his chances elsewhere, hoping to lead Omega Pharma-Quick Step at the Tour next year.
And Porte admits that should he ever have Tour ambitions, it probably won’t be at Sky that he would be able to realize them.
“Probably not the biggest things but at the same time I’ve signed for two more years in Sky,” Porte said. “I’ve just had the best season of my life, it’s the team that’s the top for GC riding, it’s where I learnt how to ride. Who knows what the future’s going to hold but for now I’m really excited for those two more years.”
As for next year’s Tour, Porte doesn’t believe there is anyone out there who could strip the title from his teammate Froome, despite a route that has only one time trial in the penultimate stage and five mountaintop finishes that would suit small, light riders such as the two podium finishers alongside Froome this year, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
“To be honest, they’re playing catch-up. They can’t out-climb him, they can’t out-time trial him,” said Porte. “Maybe there’s cobbles but Chris is also a much better bike handler than people give him credit for and he’s also going to have a much stronger team than he did this year.”
Although Porte finished down in 19th place at the Tour, it was mostly due to a single bad day on stage 9 when he dropped out of the front group and then, after a futile chase, opted to conserve energy for later challenges, losing 10 minutes in the process.
But otherwise he was able to ride with the leading climbers in the mountains and even take time out of most of them, apart from Froome, in the time trials.
“I showed that I [can compete with the best], I dropped some of these guys when I was doing the job [of a domestique],” added Porte.
“It’s a shame I lost all that time when I did but when you’re in a team you know your role, that’s what you have to do but I took a bit of confidence out of the Tour this year as well.”