DUSSELDORF, Germany (AFP) — Australia’s only ever Tour de France winner Cadel Evans has urged compatriot Richie Porte to take advantage of his strengths in his bid to beat three-time champion Chris Froome.
Evans caused a sensation in 2011 when he won the Tour, beating top Luxembourger climbers Andy and Franck Schleck in a thrilling battle. And the popular Aussie, who like Porte rode for BMC, said he had learnt to make the most of his strengths against better climbers and time-triallers, and Porte must learn to similarly take his chances wherever they fall.
“If I were riding this Tour I’d be looking for opportunities, as I always did, in the cross winds, bad roads, difficult conditions, because that’s where my biggest strengths were as a Grand Tour rider,” he said. “I played on my strengths and that was in my consistency across the three weeks and being there every day.”
Evans wasn’t the best climber, although he was capable of battling his way up the mountains and keeping close to the specialists.
He had come agonisingly close to winning both the 2007 and 2008 Tours before surprisingly strong final time-trials by Spanish climbers Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre proved enough to hold off the charging Australian in successive years.
Porte produced his best Tour performance last year in finishing fifth. But for an inopportune puncture in the second stage which cost him close to two minutes, he might even have come home second.
“From what I see, Richie knows he’s got a great opportunity right now and it’s an opportunity not to be overwhelmed by, but an opportunity to take and make the most of,” said Evans. “And if they (BMC) do everything right, it’s certainly not an unrealistic goal, but it’s a very achievable goal to be on the podium (top three) in Paris.”
Evans insisted Froome was still the favourite, despite being off the pace at the Criterium du Dauphine in early June, where he finished fourth as Porte lost out on overall victory by just 10 seconds to Jakob Fuglsang after making tactical errors on the final stage. “Of course Chris is the man to beat at this Tour, his results clearly show he’s the best Tour rider of this generation now, certainly in these last four years.
“He’s not a year younger, he’s a year more experienced but it’s not going to last forever and Richie’s now coming into his prime and now’s the time Richie needs to think about taking him on.”
Evans insisted Froome would be stronger than he was at the Dauphine but that the first true test of everyone’s form would come on the fifth stage and
the first summit finish.
“Looking back to the Dauphine and looking at Froome, he’s someone I’d expect to make big improvements from the Dauphine to now,” he said. “I always look at the first mountain top finish and it’s funny, if you look back at all the results, certainly of the Tours I rode, the result of the first mountain finish is often very close to the GC in Paris — I always use that as the first indicator.”
While Porte has always suffered a bad day in the past that has cost him dearly, Evans believes he has greater maturity now.
“What people forget about Richie is that he came into the sport quite late,” he said. “He was a little bit inexperienced five years ago but now, with that experience under his belt and a good solid team behind him, the most important thing for Richie this year is that they’ve been consistent and solid all year through and come here not only physically and mentally well prepared but mentally convinced.”