MONTAGNE DE LURE, France: Australia’s Team Sky rider Richie Porte broke clear to win the fifth stage of the Paris-Nice race at the mountaintop finish on La Montagne de Lure on Friday and seize the overall lead.
Porte attacked on the final kilometre of the 176km ride from Chateauneauf-du-Pape to finish 26 seconds ahead of Russian veteran Denis Menchov, with Andrew Talansky of the United States in third.
Talansky had tried to make an attack of his own inside the final three kilometres, but was soon overtaken by Porte as the finish line, at an altitude of 1600 metres, approached.
He loses the overall leader’s yellow jersey to Porte in the process.
Hoping to become the first Australian to win the race, Porte is now 32 seconds ahead of Talansky in the general classification, with Dutchman Lieuwe Westra a further 10 seconds back.
“I had bad memories of Paris-Nice,” Porte said. “Three years ago, my sporting director told me I was too heavy for a cyclist, last year I fell.
“But today I’ve won the stage and it is exceptional.”
Porte added that he was surprised to see Talansky attack when he did, and is now eyeing overall victory with Sunday’s closing time trial on the Col-d’Eze potentially playing into his hands.
“It is my speciality, and I know the climb off by heart, but I am not getting carried away,” he insisted.
If he does hold on to claim overall victory, Porte will follow in the footsteps of team-mate Bradley Wiggins, who won last year’s Paris-Nice before going on to win the Tour de France.
But before he has even done that, the 28-year-old Tasmanian is already looking to the future.
“I am very happy to run for Wiggins or (Chris) Froome,” he said. “Next year I want to lead the team on a race that I love, the Giro.
“By then, I think it will be time for me to compete in the general classification of a major race.”
Porte’s successful day was in stark contrast to that of his compatriot, Simon Gerrans, who did not start the stage due to breathing problems.
Saturday’s penultimate stage is a 220km ride from Manosque to Nice, before the ‘Race to the Sun’ concludes on Sunday.