PAU, France (AFP) — Australian star Richie Porte said he is fully committed to helping his friend Chris Froome win the Tour de France despite announcing he will leave Sky.
Porte is in the final year of his contract with the British super team and there had long been speculation the 30-year-old wanted out.
Having confirmed following Sunday’s ninth stage team time trial his plan to leave Sky at the end of the year to pursue his dreams of grand tour success elsewhere, Porte insisted Monday he is “excited” to be helping his friend.
“I’m here with Team Sky, I’m wearing the Sky kit, I love this team,” said Porte.
“Froomey is one of my closest friends and so are the rest of the guys. I know what my job is here and I’m excited now to get into the mountains.
“If you’re talking about [Nairo] Quintana and all these other guys, [Vincenzo] Nibali, I can’t wait to chase them.
“That’s my job and if they attack I’m going to chase them for my mate Froomey. I’m looking forward to it.”
On Sunday, Porte admitted to Australia’s SBS Television he is leaving Sky, despite a ban on discussing new contracts until August 1.
“It’s my last Tour de France with Team Sky, and I want to finish on a high with my mate Chris Froome,” Porte said.
“I think it’s the worst-kept secret in the world. I’ve got to take my own opportunities,” he added.
After four years at Sky, Porte is one of the biggest names in this year’s transfer market and has been linked to BMC Racing, who beat Sky by less than a second in Sunday’s 28-kilometer team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec.
Etixx-Quick-Step has also reportedly shown interest, and Australian outfit Orica-GreenEdge is on the lookout for a general classification rider.
Porte is on Sky’s team for the Tour de France but as a key domestique for Britain’s Froome, who has tightened his grip on the yellow jersey heading into the second week.
Porte acknowledged he would have much more opportunity to lead a grand tour outfit elsewhere.
“I’ve won Paris-Nice and Catalunya this year, and had my big opportunity in the Giro, which didn’t quite go to plan,” he said.
“But I’m ready, I’m in the prime of my career now the next few years, so I need to go and lead a team.”
Porte played crucial roles when Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour and Froome took the title the following year.
Two months ago, Porte led Sky at the Giro d’Italia after starting the season in outstanding form.
But after a strong start to the Italian tour, his race fell apart following a controversial two-minute penalty for accepting a replacement wheel from compatriot and Orica rider Simon Clarke.
Porte eventually abandoned the race because of injuries from a crash.