RODEZ, France: Chris Froome has described Australian teammate Richie Porte as “epic” and said the Tasmanian will have a “massive” role to play before the Tour de France finishes.
Porte, who will leave Team Sky at the end of the season to pursue his own team leadership aims, has spoken of his determination to help his close friend Froome win a second Tour title.
He was instrumental in Froome’s previous success in 2013 and already played a key role during three Pyrenean stages this year.
With the Alps looming from Tuesday, Froome says Porte can have a big impact on the race.
“Anyone who watched [Thursday’s] stage can see epic amount of work Richie did for me,” said Froome.
“To have guys like Richie riding for me in support when he’s able to neutralise attacks from the likes of Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali, that’s massive and I don’t think many GC (general classification) guys have that privilege of having guys like that at their side.
“Even back in 2013 when I won the Tour, Richie played a massive role there with me up in the mountains on a daily basis.
“He feels he’s getting stronger in this race, he’s bounced back well from the Giro (d’Italia) and played a massive part in the Pyrenees.
“He set up the stage win I got in (La Pierre) Saint Martin and I definitely see him playing a massive role in the Alps.”
Porte has been a loyal servant to Froome but has made no secret of his desire to lead his own team.
The 30-year-old has had chances at Sky, notably in one-week stage races where he’s enjoyed a lot of success.
He won Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino this year, with team boss Dave Brailsford saying the Australian was “probably the best rider in the first half of the year.”
He also won the Volta ao Algarve in 2012 and Paris-Nice in 2013, the same year he finished second to Froome at the Criterium du Dauphine.
But when stepping up to the Grand Tours, Porte, who was best young rider at the 2010 Giro d’Italia before joining Sky, has flattered to deceive.
After coming second to Froome on the first summit finish at the 2013 Tour to sit second overall, Porte cracked the next day and finished the Tour in 19th overall.
He was pushed up to team leader last year when Froome crashed out of the Tour and despite being second to Vincenzo Nibali after stage 12, he cracked on the first mountain stage and finished the race 23rd, even being beaten by teammate Geraint Thomas.
This year he led the team at the Giro d’Italia but after a strong first week left him third overall, his race unravelled due to a mechanical problem and then a crash, and he quit after stage 15 due to a leg injury.
Many experts believe that while Porte is an excellent week-long stage racer, he is too inconsistent to challenge on a three-week Grand Tour.
Asked about how he would feel racing against Porte next year, Froome declined to answer, using the excuse that riders aren’t allowed to discuss future team transfers until August.
But a day after claiming that he expects Thomas to be leading a team at a Grand Tour before long, Froome’s reluctance to comment on Porte’s chances perhaps spoke volumes.