- Jan 3, 2005
CAMPITELLO MATESE, Italy (VN) — Richie Porte won three week-long stage races this spring, but he must manage his and team Sky’s forces to win the longer three-week Giro d’Italia this month.
Instead of sending the black train to work at the front, he has mostly been marking rival teams Astana, led by Fabio Aru, and Tinkoff-Saxo, led by Alberto Contador, who is currently wearing the pink jersey.
On today’s summit finish to Campitello Matese, the second of seven in this year’s race, Leopold König and Mikel Nieve drove the group for a time, but it was largely Aru’s Astana squad with the reins.
“People been asking questions of the team, but we didn’t have to ride, it didn’t make sense,” Australian Porte said on his turbo trainer in the shadow of Sky’s bus. “All the guys have been taking care of themselves until now.”
Based on results this year alone, Porte would be the clear favorite to win this Giro d’Italia. He won stage races Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino. He has never won a grand tour like Contador, but he managed to win important events before the Giro pushed off in Sanremo.
Managing a squad for three weeks, though, is different from doing so for five or seven days. A misallocation early on can grow exponentially by the time the race reaches the third week, where the Giro organizers typically pack in the hardest stages.
“We’ve been good with how we’ve used our team,” Porte said. “Some people perceived it as weakness, but I think it’s more strategic, we don’t need to ride if Astana and Saxo want to take the race on.
“I think the second and obviously the third week is where we are going to need fresh teammates.”
Up to the Abetone ski resort Wednesday, Porte was alone when his rivals had numbers. Sky may have left Porte to manage himself by choice.
In today’s eighth stage, Porte had helpers Sebastian Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, and Kanstantsin Siutsou early on and König and Nieve near the end of the 13-kilometer climb in the south of Italy. Porte followed it off by marking Aru’s every move with Contador.
“I’m so happy how it went. Henao was fantastic, Mikel Nieve and König put up that big effort. It was great. I’m feeling good too.”
Contador, however, was alone and without usual mountain helpers Roman Kreuziger, Michael Rogers, and Ivan Basso. It could have been tactics on the part of team Tinkoff’s brass or it could have been fatigue. The team was omnipresent in the first week through Liguria and Tuscany.
“He’s in the pink jersey, so all he has to do is cover moves,” added Porte. “I think he would’ve liked to have a few more guys up there, but they took the race on in the first week and obviously, that takes a fair little bit out of you doing that.”
A better assessment could be had tomorrow, when the Giro’s peloton faces a nasty mid-mountain stage. On Monday, a rest day, the race makes a U-turn for the north where fans could see Sky in full flight.
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