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Tour de France

Resilient Richie Porte bounces back to spring Chris Froome to victory

Like Froome before him, Porte trains for the captaincy by working selflessly as a lieutenant

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VAISON-LA-ROMAINE, France (VN) — Richie Porte helped send Sky captain Chris Froome off to victory on Sunday’s stage to Mont Ventoux, underlining his own star status and showing that last Sunday’s collapse was just an off day.

“People ask about my form but I’m still the rider I was one week ago,” Porte told VeloNews Saturday.

Porte drove the remnants of the front group along for 2km up Mont Ventoux, from 9.3km to go until the 7.3km mark, when Froome attacked.

With Nairo Quintana (Movistar) away and a potential threat to the overall, the Tasmanian’s work was crucial for Froome. On Porte’s watch, several riders fell behind, including Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin).

Only Saxo-Tinkoff rivals Roman Kreuziger and Alberto Contador remained when Porte was finished.

“Quintana was going up the road with a decent advantage. Climbing as well as he does, he wasn’t someone we wanted to let get a lot of time,” Froome said in his post-stage press conference.

“Pete Kennaugh took over, (then) Richie Porte took over and closed the gap down and in the process got rid of a lot of the GC guys on our wheels. Only Alberto was left. As Richie came to his end, I thought, ‘Now’s the time; I don’t want to play games.’ I decided to close to Quintana and also get rid of Alberto.”

Porte appeared to be smiling the rest of the way up the climb. He placed 15th at 2 minutes and 49 minutes behind, hearing the announcer yelling Froome’s name and knowing his had been a job well done.

Sky has bounced back after horrible days last Sunday and two days ago in Saint-Amand-Montrond. Movistar and other rival teams worked together last Sunday to rule out Porte, who started the stage second overall. En route to Saint-Amand-Montrond, Saxo-Tinkoff split the pack in the crosswinds and took back more than a minute from Froome.

Porte joked Saturday: “We’ve lost two strong guys, but morale is still sky-high. Pardon the pun.”

Indeed, spirits appeared quite high on Sunday. Sky took over 8km from the base of the 20.8km climb with Kanstantsin Siutsou, David López, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas. Kennaugh and Porte came into play later. The Sky force appeared just as it had all spring, or even last year, when it led Bradley Wiggins to the overall win in the 2012 Tour.

For Porte, it’s a confirmation of his GC abilities. The 28-year-old has developed from a surprise pink-jersey wearer at the 2010 Giro d’Italia to a bona-fide grand-tour challenger.

“You learn more from adversity than you do from winning most of the time. Most of the guys who have won a grand tour have had experiences both good and bad that all add up together to give them the complete set of tools to be a challenger,” team principal David Brailsford told VeloNews.

“Richie’s getting very close to that point. These experiences will stand him in good stead.”