• Primed for the podium... Richie Porte. (Getty)
Never has he looked more ready to take on, and quite possibly win, a Grand Tour. However, the optimism one feels towards Richie Porte's chances at the Giro d'Italia must come with a caveat, writes Anthony Tan.
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9 May 2015 - 2:07 AM  UPDATED 9 May 2015 - 9:46 AM

At first (or even second) glance, there is a 2012 Bradley Wiggins-, 2013 Chris Froome-esque feel about his season so far.

Wiggins won Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné en route to becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France. One year later, Froome's trajectory to Le Tour was eerily similar, with victories at the Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Romandie and Dauphiné, before dominating in July.

With two very different riders, it appeared Team Sky had discovered a winning formula that others tried to imitate but could not succesfully replicate. Last year, however, despite following a similar strategy, the wheels fell off the Sky Train, and, from an investor's perspective, their yield in terms of dollars spent per win must surely have been the worst out of any WorldTour outfit.

"There was something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, about the Team Sky of 2015."

It was German born physicist Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. To their credit - in particular, team principal Dave Brailsford - they accepted change was nigh, for the old way was no longer the best way, and right from Ian Stannard's victory at Het Nieuwsblad on February 28, there was something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, about the Team Sky of 2015.

They racked up eight wins before that date, including Richie Porte's national time trial championship and stage victory atop Willunga at the Tour Down Under, and Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome's respective overall victories at Algarve and Andalucia - but it was Stannard outfoxing two of the best Classics riders from arguably the best Classics team in the first real Spring Classic that got heads turning, chins lifting, and tongues wagging.

Sky had evolved. And by consequence, so has Richie Porte, among others.

A day before the season's first Grand Tour begins in San Lorenzo al Mare, among 22 victories, this team has racked up six GC wins with three different riders and taken two classics - namely, Stannard at Het Nieuwsblad and Thomas at E3 Harelbeke. They are no longer a one-trick pony where the focus is on one race and one rider and every thing and everyone else comes a distant second; they have multiple leaders and multiple objectives, and every race counts.

This does not mean victory for Porte at the Giro is a fait accompli. 3,481.8 kilometres far from it. Besides, he will need to beat Alberto Contador, indisputably the best Grand Tour rider of his generation, and fend off offensives from Rigoberto Uran and Fabio Aru.

Out of this heady quartet, Porte is also the least experienced as a leader. "I wanted to learn how to race. I don't think when you're working at the front, you're learning how to race," Simon Yates, who, along with his twin brother Adam eschewed an offer at Sky for Orica-GreenEDGE, told Reuters in an interview ahead of this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "You might get stronger because you ride in the front all the time but you don't learn how to race; you don't see how the guys who win races race; you don't see how they win.

"You don't know what goes on at the squeaky end of the race."

Granted, this year has been different for Porte. He's seen the squeaky end, and, for the most part, had others squealing when he's attacked. But until now and unlike Contador, Uran and Aru he's yet to go into a Grand Tour as a leader, and when you consider his chances, that fact should not be brushed aside.

That said, so far, so good for Richie, and importantly, Sky has bestowed the Tasmanian a great coterie of domestiques at his beck and call till month's end.

The podium is his for the taking. As for the top step in Milan on May 31, let's just wait and see.

Giro d'Italia broadcast details
SBS will broadcast every stage of the Giro d'Italia live. When possible, we will also live stream the race online here at Cycling Central before the television broadcast begins. In addition to morning highlights online, there will be highlights every day at 6pm on SBS 2.