• Richie Porte (C) surrounded by his BMC team mates. (Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography)Source: Kathryn Watt - Watt Shotz Photography
Tour de France champions often have a right-hand man and consolidating contender Richie Porte may have discovered his at the Santos Tour Down Under this week.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
22 Jan 2017 - 8:47 AM  UPDATED 22 Jan 2017 - 8:48 AM

Porte himself has played the role famously, assisting Chris Froome at Sky before moving to BMC for his own shot at the yellow jersey, which he’s gaining momentum for in Adelaide.

The gamble to transfer is paying off for the 31-year-old, who has all but won the Tour Down Under after a fourth consecutive stage victory atop Willunga on Saturday.

Porte reigns supreme on Willunga
Richie Porte all but won the 2017 Santos Tour Down Under after again winning the Willunga Hill stage in compelling fashion.

Porte has waxed lyrical about the support of his teammates at the race, which he’s led since Wednesday, but has each time distinguished Francisco Ventoso, 34, who joined BMC from Movistar this season.

Some of the men that have strongly backed Porte in Adelaide will also at the Tour de France this year, and Ventoso is on a good way to earning a ticket despite being the new kid on the BMC block.

“There’s still quite a few to come in. But then you get a guy like Fran Ventoso, and the work he has done - he rode on the front all day today. The only guy to ride all day. Guys like that are obviously putting their hand up to race,” Porte said.

“The team has been absolutely awesome with me after the Tour last year, and supporting me. They sent quite a few of the guys that will ride the Tour de France here. We’re getting along really well. It’s a long road to the Tour, so the more we can race together and get to know each other … it’s good signs.”

Porte finished fifth in his first concerted maillot jaune bid as a co-captain with Tejay van Garderen last year, which he’ll look to improve on as sole leader this season. Seemingly more confident and comfortable at the stable now, he has almost met his first title target of 2017, shaking off runner-up status.

“You get paid to win races, so when you can finish them off like that it’s a great feeling. It gives me a lot of confidence going into July. The Tour de France, I’d love to go there and have a really good crack at it this year,” he said.

The Tour Down Under finishes on Sunday with a CBD criterium, which Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) will enter as hot favourite. Porte and Ewan are currently the only two riders to have won stages at the 19th edition.

“I’m in a good position, but you do have to stay out of trouble. I just want to finish it off tomorrow without any issues. I’ve always wanted to win this race. I remember doing this race in 2008 with UniSA. I’ve said it before, I’d love to have my name up there on the honour board,” Porte said.

Providing the general classification remains the same, Porte will claim the race with a 48-second advantage – the second biggest margin behind Patrick Jonker’s 1min 13sec buffer in 2004.