ANDORRA (AFP) — Richie Porte reacted angrily on Monday to suggestions he was helping his Tour de France rival Chris Froome during a mountaintop finish in Andorra.
The Australian was a Sky teammate of Froome’s when the Briton won his two Tours in 2013 and last year.
Now riding for BMC Racing, Porte is in direct competition with Froome at the Tour and was one of only a handful of riders able to cross the finish line with the champion at the end of Sunday’s Pyrenean stage.
But at one point on the final climb to the finish, Porte attacked the group of favorites before hesitating and looking back at Froome.
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It led to suggestions — perhaps tongue in cheek — that Porte thought he was still riding for his fellow 31-year-old former team leader.
“I know him well, I rode in the [Sky] team. But there’s no favors up there. People say I didn’t attack him yesterday, which is just rubbish,” said an irritated Porte during Monday’s first Tour rest day in Andorra.
“I guess people just don’t quite understand how it is when you’re on the limit — it’s just not always possible to keep attacking.”
On the final climb up to Arcalis, the group of favorites was gradually whittled down. Each time a rider put in an acceleration, the others jumped onto his rear wheel.
Nobody, Froome included, managed to put in a decisive burst that would drop their rivals.
It left Froome with a 16-second lead over his compatriot Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange), 19 seconds over Ireland’s Dan Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step), and 23 seconds over Nairo Quintana (Movistar), considered his toughest competitor.
Porte is 2:10 down in 14th after losing time due to a puncture on the second stage — something that still rankles with the Tasmanian.
“I think yesterday showed I’m climbing with the best,” he said.
“Obviously the disaster I had last Sunday is still a bit of a hard one to take, but the hardest days of the race are in front of us so hopefully I can make more time back and try to hit that podium in Paris.”
Porte hopes to take advantage of an expected battle between Froome and Quintana, the 26-year-old Colombian who finished second to the Briton on each of his two Tour victories.
Porte also feels the Tour suits his abilities and expects to improve on his previous best 19th place finish from 2013 — albeit then riding as a Froome teammate.
“Hopefully [Froome and Quintana] will be watching each other and maybe I can go away,” Porte said.
“There are also two time trials coming up too. I need to have two good time trials and claw some time back there.”