Richie Porte can win the Tour de France. Actually we have known that for a while but can win and will win are very different statements. So let me rephrase that – I believe Richie Porte will win the Tour this year.
He would have been on the podium last time around if not for the untimely puncture on stage 2 last year and the infamous crash into a media motorbike on Mt Ventoux .
The bookies have him second favourite, only a couple of points behind defending champion Chris Froome who is gunning for his fourth victory. And most tour experts are divided between the two as to who is the real favourite but if you ask them who currently has the best form, then it’s unanimous – Richie Porte.
From the start of the year when he dominated the Tour Downunder to his confident win at the Tour de Romandie and his recent scintillating performance at the Criterium du Dauphine only two weeks ago, Richie has looked the strongest. But the Dauphine did highlight one area he will have to watch – Tactics.
Cycling is very accurately called “Chess on Wheels” and the boy from Launceston Tasmania was found wanting on the final day at the Dauphine. Sure he didn’t have the strong BMC team that will back him at the Tour, but he got sucked in by Froome on the penultimate climb, worrying too much about the Kenyan born Englishman and let his other main opponents go up the road. Froome used that situation to leap frog over Porte and the Tasmanian found himself in a precarious situation more than a minute behind all his rivals. The fact that he went on to ride the legs them all (except Dane Jakob Fuglsang who pipped him for the overall) was not the issue. He just can’t let a situation like that happen again. Although Porte and Froome were teammates at Sky and have remained friends off the bike, there seems to be a growing rivalry on the race route.
The organisers have delivered a very different course this year and have mixed it up completely with never more than two days in any type of terrain. To do that they have introduced all five of the mountain ranges in France, the Alps, Pyrenees, Jura, Vosges and Massif Central. This new route has thrown up some new and steeper climbs and I reckon it’s a great innovation. They have also varied the stage distances quite a bit with 200km plus stages followed by 100km stages.
This years Tour has the least distance in time trials that I can recall with only 36km against the clock. This will suit Nairo Quintana and Roman Bardet most of all.
There are nine Australians in the Grande Boucle – The big loop. Michael Matthew showed good form last year to win stage 10 beating Peter Sagan and he is one of the few who could challenge the Slovakian who is going for his sixth consecutive Green sprinters jersey.
Then of course there is the Aussie team Orica Scott who may only have three riders from the Antipodes in the squad this time around but they are still an Australian team as far as the DNA is concerned.
They will be riding in support of the diminutive Colombian Esteban Chaves and Englishman Simon Yates. Although Chaves finished on the podium in both the Grand Tours of Italy and Spain last year, he most likely won’t be able to do so in this his first Tour de France. And that is only through injury. Because of a nagging knee injury, the recent Dauphine was his first race since the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in February. Although he has completely recovered, and I expect him to shine in the mountain stages, I don’t reckon he will challenge for the title this year. Yates however has good form and will be hoping to emulate his twin brother Adam who finished just off the podium in fourth place and won the prestigious White jersey of leading young rider last year. I think we will go close to that and I pick him for 5th overall.
Of the three Aussies in the team there is no doubt Sun Tour winner Damien Howson will be setting the pace on the big burgs for his close friend Chaves and Yates, while Luke Durbridge will be using his incredible horsepower to control things on the flat. Same with Mathew Hayman who is the captain on the road and uses his tactical nous to guide the team.
Simon Clarke is the road captain for Cannondale-Drapac and may get the opportunity to get clear and battle it out for a stage win.
Jay McCarthy will be riding his first Tour and will have a tough three weeks leading out teammate Peter Sagan in the sprints.