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Tour de France

Porte defends teammate Froome on and off the bike

Richie Porte defends friend, roommate Chris Froome against detractors, confirms USA Pro Challenge start

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Richie Porte (Sky) is ready to leave it all on the road to help Chris Froome take aim for the yellow jersey, but he’s also prepared to defend him off the bike as well.

Sky’s No. 2 will be Froome’s ally both on the road and in the intrigue that’s part of fighting for the yellow jersey. Above all, Porte will defend Froome from any would-be detractors.

“He is a nice guy. Anyone on Twitter or anywhere else who has a problem with Chris Froome, they’re the ones with the problem,” Porte told VeloNews. “He’s a good guy, he’s down to earth. He’s got time for everybody.”

Perhaps Porte knows Froome better than anyone on Team Sky. They’re training partners, friends, and roommates on the road. They both live in Monaco, and have traveled from the far-flung corners of the globe (Porte from Tasmania and Froome from Kenya and South Africa) to fight their way to the elite level of the sport.

Porte, 28, said Froome is unfazed by the flack that comes with being the top favorite for the Tour.

“He’s the favorite for the Tour, but that doesn’t affect his mood at all. He’s a normal guy, but he also realizes that this Tour is a massive opportunity for him,” Porte continued. “It’s not won until we get to Paris, and we still have a long way to go, but being the No. 1 favorite is not stressing him at all.”

That’s in sharp contrast to Sir Bradley Wiggins, who did not like the pressure that came with the yellow jersey last year. Froome, on the other hand, seems to deflect the negativity and not let it phase him.

“Mentally, he’s strong as anybody. Physically, he’s stronger than everyone. He showed that at [Critérium du] Dauphiné, and it’s not going to be any different at the Tour,” Porte said. “He is very determined, put it that way. He flipped the switch, and we’re going there to win the Tour.”

Froome has found a strong ally in Porte, who will be right by his side all the way to Paris.

While last year’s Tour played well to strengths of both Wiggins and Froome, this year’s mountainous route might mean Porte will have to sacrifice himself more than Froome did last year.

That’s something that Porte said he is not afraid to do.

Froome and Porte form a strong alliance, both during the race and after.

And backed by a strong, yet relatively young, Sky lineup, Froome and Porte enter the Tour as the top-line favorites.

“He’s taken a lot of confidence out of the Dauphiné. It was a big confidence-booster for both him and the team. We’re all riding for Chris now. And guys like Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas, we’ve all stepped up,” Porte said. “As a team, we’re all ready to get him there and fight for Froomey.”

On Wiggins, Colorado, and staying with Sky

Porte also defended Sky teammate Wiggins, saying that the defending Tour champion deserves respect even if injuries and health setbacks have derailed his return to the Tour this year.

“After the season Brad had last year, people have to respect that no matter what’s happened since, it’s one of the most brilliant seasons anybody’s ever had,” he said.

“It would have been brilliant to have had Brad on the team. He’s such a huge engine,” Porte continued. “It’s not possible to replace Brad, so we just have to roll with the punches. Luckily, we do have the talent and depth on this team — not replace Brad, that’s impossible — but to fill the hole with other riders.”

On his own future, Porte passed on offers to step into the top GC role at other teams in order to stay with Sky after his contract ends at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

He realizes he will be No. 2 behind Froome, but he admits he didn’t want to go anywhere else.

“I did have some nice offers, but to be honest, I just don’t know why you leave Sky,” he said. “For me, where I am at, I am still learning this game, I am happy at Sky. That’s the biggest thing, isn’t it? Being happy where you are.”

Sky is more than pleased to keep Porte and it has already had a broad discussion about 2014, and that includes Porte taking on the top GC role as the team captain at a grand tour, with the Giro d’Italia being the top goal.

Porte also confirmed he will race at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado after the Tour. In fact, following the three-week trip through France, Porte has no plans to put the brake on what’s been an amazing season.

“I’ve never actually made it to America, so after the Tour, I will just keep rolling. [Clásica] San Sebastián is my favorite one-day race. Then I will take a little break, do Colorado and the Canadian races,” he said. “I will finish off the season with worlds, and the Italian classics. I might go to Japan as well. Why not?”