Paris-Nice winner with no hard feelings after teammate takes overall
There were no ill feelings in the Team Sky camp at the end of the final day at Critérium International but there could have easily been reason for some post-stage words between Richie Porte and the day's stage Chris Froome. Froome's attack on the day's final climb saw the recent Paris-Nice winner Porte lose out but unlike a certain moment in last year's Tour de France where Froome supposedly attacked Bradley Wiggins, this was all part of the strategy and it was executed to perfection, according to both riders and team director Nicolas Portal.
Porte begun Stage 3 from Porto-Vecchio to Col de l'Ospedale resplendent in yellow and appeared on track to follow-up from his victory at Paris-Nice however, the Australian would end the day in second-place both on the stage and the final classification after Froome stole the show in the final five kilometers of racing.
Despite missing out on his second overall victory of the year Porte appeared satisfied with the result. The team walked away with a one-two victory and claimed two of the three stages. The entire race couldn't have gone any better according to eventual winner Froome. A sentiment echoed by his teammate Porte.
"The stage panned out more or less how we expected. The plan was to control the race throughout the day. It was a huge job and we really put pressure on the other teams," said Froome on his team site.
"Richie and I didn't have to make any big efforts until right at the end there. The team did that work for us and all we had to do was finish it off," he added.
"I didn't really intend to attack on the climb, but when the gap widened between myself and Richie, I felt I could go on, so I went for it.
"It was that quick thinking between us which brought about the victory and we couldn't ask for any more than a one-two on the stage and GC."
Porte paid tribute to the tireless efforts of his other teammates who sort to set-up the expected victory for Porte while instead it was Froome who got given the nod to stretch his legs.
"Tactically we were spot on today. The team were absolutely incredible and it's just a shame you don't get to see all the work guys like Joe [Dombrowski], Jon [Tiernan-Locke], Xabi [Zandio], Kosta [Siutsou] and Vasil [Kiryienka] do to get us to that point where Froomey and I can attack at the end," said Porte.
"Froomey set a hard tempo after Kiryienka's mammoth turn and I thought I'd let a small gap go to see what happened, and that was the last we saw of Froomey, he was gone (laughs).
"It wasn't planned but it worked out perfectly. We ride together every day so we know each other so well, and when he went nobody reacted so he had to continue.
"As I said yesterday, the only important thing was that Team Sky won today. It's always special to get a one-two on the podium, especially given the strength of the field we had here, and we're super happy."
Building for the Tour de France
The overall win at the 2.HC gave Froome a much needed confidence boost after missing out on the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. With Froome expected to lead his Sky team at this year's Tour de France and teammate Wiggins firstly aiming at the Giro d'Italia, the win couldn't have come at a better time.
"The way this team has performed over the weekend has given me huge confidence as we continue building towards the Tour de France. There were plenty of attacks today but the guys reacted brilliantly to every situation," said Froome.
"The squad as a whole here at Team Sky is picking up momentum with every race we enter and the results we're getting across the board is what motivates us to keep improving. It's special to be part of."
Team director Portal was quick to extinguish any inter-team problems going so far as to call Froome and Porte "best friends". This friendship could prove vital to the team in the coming months as the team looks to build a loyal squad ahead of the Grand Départ.
"This is a perfect result for them because they are best friends and it will be a great memory for them to look back on in the future," he said.
"The result will have given them both a massive confidence boost as well because none of the other riders could react to their efforts. They've proved they're at a different level to the likes of Schleck, Evans and Talansky at the moment and that's got to bode well as they continue to improve for the summer."