The 9.6 kilometres of the Col d’Èze separate Richie Porte from final overall victory at Paris-Nice, and as well as carrying a 32-second buffer into Sunday afternoon’s final stage, the Sky rider also the advantage of racing on home roads, given that he lives in Monaco and trains regularly on the climb.
“I don’t have a reference time from training, but there are days where I climb the Col d’Èze three or four times,” Porte said on Saturday, according to L’Èquipe.
Porte enters Sunday’s time trial 32 seconds ahead of Andrew Talanksy (Garmin-Sharp) and 42 clear of both Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Last year, Porte could only finish 28th in the Col d’Èze time trial, 1:44 down on teammate and winner Bradley Wiggins (and 1:42 behind Westra), but he is confident that there is quite a difference between riding a time trial after a week of working for a team leader and racing it in the yellow jersey.
“I was pretty bad last year,” Porte admitted, but pointed to his winning ride at Montagne de Lure on Friday as a firmer indication of his form. “I’ve already shown that I’ve got the best climbing legs at this Paris-Nice. I’m in a good position.”
While Porte acknowledged Westra’s previous on the Col d’Èze – “he showed last year that he can go very well on these slopes” – the Tasmanian identified Talansky as the principal danger man.
Talanksy beat Porte by 16 seconds at the Crans Montana time trial at the Tour of Romandie last year, but Porte appeared unfazed by that defeat. “He beat me, but he gained time on me on the descent and I had been quicker on the climb,” said Porte, mindful that there is no respite on the Col d’Èze.
While in the 1980s, the final time trial normally included a kilometre or so of flat before the climbing began in earnest, Sunday’s stage – like the corresponding stage last year – begins at the base of the climb.
Facing the riders are 9.6km at an average gradient of 4.7% and some slopes of 8.6%. Last year, Porte’s teammate Wiggins clocked a winning time of 19:12 but Porte said that he would not necessarily be availing of Wiggins’ intermediate times. “It’s difficult because Bradley and I aren’t the same kind of rider. We don’t have the same characteristics,” he said.