Having burst onto the pro scene in 2010 with a stage win at the Tour of Romandy and then a fantastic debut at the Giro d’Italia where he held the maglia rosa of race leader for a while before eventually finishing seventh overall, Aussie Richie Porte slowly drifted from prominence when he was utilised as a domestique for his new teammate Alberto Contador last year.
Today however, Porte announced his return with a solo victory atop the second category Alto de Malhao to take over the race lead at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.
“I’m back where I need to be,” the tough Tasmanian said after his stage win. “I needed that for my head, I guess. It wasn’t easy last year and the cycling world had kind of forgotten about me but I’m hoping I can have a big season this year. I think it was the right thing for me to change over to Sky. I mean, hats off to Saxo Bank for the last two years, it was a great team, but I’m so happy this year and I think that’s going to make me grow as a rider.”
Team Sky was the dominant team on the stage Friday, hauling back a breakaway eight strong that had built up a maximum advantage of over eight minutes on the penultimate climb, before launching Porte towards the summit at Alto de Malhao. Here the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ stormed to an impressive victory, finishing with an eight second lead over home rider Tiago Machedo (Radioshack Nissan Trek) and his compatriot Rui Costa of Movistar.
“I can climb when my condition is good and its good at the moment,” says Porte. “But really it was such a team effort. You saw us on the front all day and they had great confidence in me. To have guys that were second and third in the Vuelta riding for you and Eddy, Lars Peter, Thomas and the rest of the guys… it’s such a class team and they sacrificed themselves for me today. I was just the lucky guy that got to ride the last 10km for myself and I’m proud of the team and I’m just a happy man.”
Porte admits the change to Sky has transformed his mindset and set him on the road to victory again. “It’s great to be back with Bobby Julich,” he said of his time trial coach. “I’m training every day with Chris Froome and I think it’s the best thing for me, the support of these guys. Winning is just part of it now I hope.”
Porte holds a slim 12 second lead over Machado with two stages to go but admits he has one eye on world time trial champ Tony Martin, currently lurking in 10th place overall at 50 seconds with a 28km time trial to end proceedings on Sunday
“I’m looking forward to the time trial,” he says. “It’s not an easy time trial which usually means that suits me. I’m not a bad time triallist but who knows, you can’t rule out Tony Martin because he’s the best in the world but it’s not over yet. It’s exciting.”