Will the door open for Porte on Tour success?
WILL Aussie rider Richie Porte be sipping champagne as the Tour de France peloton rides into Paris on July 27?
The 29-year-old suddenly became one of a small group of possible winners after a treacherous fifth stage on the cobblestones between the Belgian city of Ypres and the French town of Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, that claimed Porte's Team Sky teammate and defending champion Chris Froome.
Already riding with his left wrist in a splint and grazes on his hip and shoulder from a crash on stage four, the Brit came down twice as heavy rain and slippery and uneven surfaces turned the 152.5km ride into a nightmare. Froome pulled the pin on his defence after the second tumble that left him with a new set of injuries.
It also left Porte as Team Sky's main man, principal Dave Brailsford saying he was confident the Australian could win the race.
"He's in great shape, he's had a slower start to the season than normal and he's fresh. He's come into form at the right time and he's climbing really well," Brailsford said.
Porte finished the stage in eighth place, one minute 54 secs behind leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Despite slipping 2mins 37secs off the pace in 19th place, Spaniard Alberto Contador is still regarded as the biggest threat to Nibali and Porte.
But with Froome out, several riders including Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Michael Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) will fancy their chances of an upset victory.