Team Sky has yet to announce their full set of goals for 2014 but Richie Porte received his biggest endorsement as a grand tour leader yet after one of the team’s directors claimed that the Australian had all the credentials to win a three-week race.
Porte has made no secret of his desire to lead the British team in a grand tour with the Giro d’Italia expected to be the focal point of the rider’s season. The 2014 race route was presented last week in Milan and with Sky’s Dan Hunt present.
“Like it’s been said many times, it’s quite a balanced route with around eight flat stages, five mountain stages and five medium mountain stages, a flat time trial, an up hill time trial and a team time trial. It’s got a bit of everything,” he told Cyclingnews.
Balanced route aside Sky’s determination to compete in both the Giro and the Tour de France was evident this year with Bradley Wiggins leading in Italy and Chris Froome challenging in July. With Wiggins found wanting and later abandoning the Giro and his grand tour future uncertain, Porte is the team’s best card to play at the Giro, assuming that Froome attempts to defend his Tour title.
“He’s ready to lead at a grand tour,” Hunt said of Porte, before adding, “I think he has the possibility of wining the Giro. I think he has all the right credentials to lead and win a grand tour but in three weeks of road racing almost anything is possible. It’s probably the hardest race on the calendar.
“I think he’s experienced, he’s developed both physically and mentally as a rider. He’s got that level of maturity that’s needed in order to lead in a grand tour. The next few weeks are about a time of recovery after a long season and then the management team with Richie in particular can sit down and think about what it would take to win the Giro. So rather than looking at it with just some hopes and dreams we’ll start looking at it objectively and figuring out how are we going to win, who are we going to win it with and what do we need to win this race. We’ll just work backwards from there.”
Sky’s main concern, according to Hunt, could be over how Sky split their squad between dual grand tour challenges. This year Sky looked weaker at the Tour than they had done twelve months previously and although they ran out winners courtesy of Chris Froome’s virtually untouchable form, their team leader was at times isolated. The loss of Rigoberto Uran to Omega Pharma QuickStep and Wiggins' levels of motivation may have weakened the team but the signing of Mikel Nieve after a stand-out performance on the slopes of Mont Ventoux during this year’s Tour has bolstered the team’s climbing strengths.
“Our key issue is about dividing up the squad and making sure that we’re strong at both the Giro and the Tour and making sure that we’re not reliant on the same individuals doing both. We can’t go to the Giro and try and win if don’t have the right team around Richie, but we don’t want to weaken our Tour team.”