Paris-Nice, episode 80: Richie Porte

March 3 rd 2022 - 12:00

A day in the sun (IX/X)

Since 1933, Paris–Nice has been the first major event of the season for the stars gunning for glory in stage races. The balance of power on the Promenade des Anglais or the Col d'Èze, depending on the season, gives us our first glimpse of where each Tour de France favourite stands. To mark the 80th edition, is looking back on how the Race to the Sun shaped the careers of ten riders who shared a special bond with the event.

Often relegated to domestique status in the Grand Tours, Richie Porte began in Paris–Nice (2013 and 2015) a victorious streak that took him to the top of the podium in Catalonia (2015), Romandy (2017), the Tour de Suisse (2018) and the Dauphiné (2021).

A loyal servant…

The ink was barely dry on Richie Porte's contract with Saxo when the youngster made his Paris–Nice debut in 2010, riding in the service of Fränk Schleck. His first appearance in the race failed to make much of an impact, in stark contrast with his performance a few weeks later in the Giro, which he finished as the best young rider after wearing the maglia rosa for three days. When the opportunity presents itself, the man from Down Under is a climber capable of showing flashes of brilliance as well as a strong power rider despite his small frame. The following season, he took third place in the Aix-en-Provence time trial in Paris–Nice, hot on the heels of future winner Tony Martin and Bradley Wiggins.

In 2011, however, he was still stuck as Alberto Contador's lieutenant in the mountains, helping him to a Giro victory that would later be annulled after the Spaniard tested positive for clenbuterol. Porte's work for Contador caught the attention of the management at Sky, which signed him to reinforce the team built around Bradley Wiggins. The Brit's annus mirabilis started in Paris–Nice, where he relied on the valuable support of the Australian power climber… as he did in Romandy, the Dauphiné and the Tour de France.  

…cut out for one-week races

Richie Porte's list of victories has as much to do with the way that Sky deployed its human resources as with his own qualities. A key part of Chris Froome's victorious campaigns from 2013 onwards, he got the all-clear from his team to go for glory in certain one-week races, a format that suits him like a glove. Leading the British squad in Paris–Nice, he left the opposition in the dust on the Montagne de Lure and was in a league of his own in the Col d'Èze time trial, where he sealed the deal and became the first Australian winner of the event.

Two years later, another superb performance on the Col d'Èze saw him seize the yellow and white jersey from Tony Gallopin at the last minute. It was his second victory in the Race to the Sun, but there was more to come. In 2016, now clad in BMC colours, he took the bottom step of an ultra-close podium, beneath Geraint Thomas and Alberto Contador. The next season, splits on the Loiret plains knocked him out of contention for the title, but he recovered to win the highest stage finish in the history of the race, on the Col de la Couillole (1,678 masl), at the end of the week. Not bad for a pocket climber.  

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