Several voices have called for salary caps and budget parity across the UCI WorldTour to create a more equal playing field.
For Richie Porte, who’s been on both sides of the Sky train, the peloton needs to bring in more sponsors like Sky, not impose some sort of arbitrary salary cap or budget limitation.
“There’s been a lot made of salary cap, but firstly cycling needs more sponsors like Sky,” Porte said in a phone interview. “I think a lot of the crap that’s been thrown around is rhetorical.”
Porte has been inside the Team Sky train and he’s still hoping to have a chance to use that insider knowledge to his advantage. After crashing out of the Tour for the second year in a row last month, Porte is slated to start the Vuelta a España on August 25 in Malaga in what’s expected to be his final grand tour in a BMC Racing jersey.
Porte defended Sky’s tactics and said riding a high tempo at the front of the peloton is the best way to control a grand tour. Some might not consider that the most exciting way to race, but Porte said it’s highly effective.
“It is hard to attack a team like Sky but it’s sensible what they do. If they can ride tempo and win the race it makes sense to do it,” Porte said. “They way they ride is just how you win bike races. You take control of the race and that’s what Sky does brilliantly.”
Many teams have tried to emulate Sky, but few have had much success. Porte pointed to the travails of Movistar during this year’s Tour as an example that there’s more going on at Team Sky than just a deep pocketbook.
“To get the guys to ride on the front like they do is one thing but not every team can get the best out of high paid guys,” Porte said. “Look at Movistar, they’re a prime example. They’ve got three of the highest paid guys but other than Nairo Quintana winning a stage, they didn’t really do a hell of a lot. No disrespect, but maybe if they’d ridden like Sky did, as a unit, they might have had better success.”
Porte watched the Tour with interest from his couch after crashing out in stage 9 in a minor pileup that had massive consequences. He cracked his clavicle and was out of the race when he was perhaps in the best shape of his career. Observing from a distance, he could tell the peloton fears attacking Sky.
“To give them respect, it’s not easy to do,” he continued. “When you see guys like Luke Rowe and [Jonathan] Castroviejo riding like they do. Then having [Egan] Bernal too. Guys were afraid to attack [Chris] Froome, then Geraint [Thomas] was the one who profited out of that the most. People were afraid of Froome, and Geraint was the strongest guy in the race. I don’t know what you do — maybe gang up on them.”
Porte said the only way to beat Sky is to hope that the team’s captains have a bad day. That’s a rather bleak but honest assessment of Sky, which has won six of the past seven yellow jerseys.
“I think people are going to let Sky do tempo, if they’re good enough to attack, they have to hope that Froomey or Geraint aren’t on a good day. That’s the only way I can see to beat them,” Porte said.
“In 2013, one stage Froome was isolated, the rest of us [on Sky] got dropped because the whole peloton ganged up on us,” Porte continued. “We tried to control too many guys that wanted to go in the breakaways. That’s probably the way to take them. If everyone keeps attacking full gas, that’s the only way to beat Sky.”
When asked if he thought it was the end of the Froome era, Porte didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Froomey, not for a second,” he said. “It’s Chris Froome, he’s always up for a battle. He hasn’t had the easiest season. If he turns up next year and the Tour is his goal, then he’ll be the man to beat, 100 percent.
“If anyone wins the Giro like he did, that’s an incredible season,” he continued. “I guess Froomey put the pressure on himself to go to the Tour to try to win his fifth. It was probably a big ask. It can’t have been easy with him with all the stuff going on and the hostility at the Tour. At the end of the day he’s only human, and that all had to get to him eventually. To still to be third in the Tour, I’d give anything to be third at the Tour … Chris didn’t win the Tour this year but I think next year he’ll be all in to win that fifth title.”