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CERILLY, France (VN) — Richie Porte (Sky) is hoping to take full advantage of his chance to ride for GC this week at Paris-Nice because he knows it might be his last chance all season.
The 28-year-old Aussie is pushing for the podium in the eight-day “Race to the Sun” before reverting to his role as helper for Team Sky captains Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome for the Tour de France in July.
Speaking to VeloNews before the start of Tuesday’s second stage, Porte said he’s motivated for both challenges.
“This is a chance for me to step up. I am going to take it with both hands,” he said. “I’d love to be in that Tour squad again. That’s the main aim for this year.”
Porte was a key member last year in Wiggins’ tremendous push toward Tour victory, helping him win Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné before powering to the yellow jersey in the Tour.
The Tasmanian-born rider has been on a steady trajectory since turning pro with Saxo Bank in 2010, when he made headlines with a spell in the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia en route to finishing seventh overall in his grand tour debut.
He notched two time trial wins in 2011 (stages at the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Tour of Denmark) before winning his first pro GC with a stage and the overall at the Volta ao Algarve last year.
Following a move to Sky in 2012, Porte explains he’s more than happy to be riding in the shadow of Wiggins and Froome.
“Riding in support, I knew that’s what was going to happen when I signed with Sky,” Porte said. “You learn so much, especially with Brad and the year he had last year. He was ready for every race. He’s a great rider and a good guy. This is the best team to serve your apprenticeship, put it that way.”
This year, he’ll largely replicate his racing schedule from 2012, with a few choice selections to race for GC. Romandie, where he was fourth overall last year, might be another opportunity.
“Riding at Sky doesn’t mean I will not take my own chances when I get the opportunity. I am happy they’ve brought me here and given me the leadership role,” he said. “Paris-Nice historically hasn’t been good for me, but I am feeling good this year.”
Team Sky is betting on Porte this week and considers him a long-term project. Sport director Servais Knaven told VeloNews that the Paris-Nice route is ideal for Porte’s racing qualities.
“This is a perfect race for Richie, with the mountain top finish and the climbing time trial,” Knaven said. “Maybe Richie is not the favorite, but we believe him. He’s our captain and we are supporting. We will see how he finishes, but we believe he can be very close to winning this race. Why not?”
Porte is savoring these chances, but he admits he’s not holding his breath to challenge for the yellow jersey, at least not with Wiggins and Froome leading Team Sky.
In fact, he readily admits he’s not even sure if he’s cut out as grand-tour material.
“When will I race for the yellow jersey? I don’t know, to be honest,” he said. “That’s not a big concern for me at the moment. I really haven’t been racing my bike that long professionally. I still feel like I have a lot to learn.”