There were shades of Lance Armstrong blasting past Jan Ullirch at the start of the 2005 Tour de France in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île when Richie Porte (Sky) cruised by his former team leader Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) in the Critérium du Dauphiné’s stage 4 time trial on Wednesday.
Contador struggled throughout the flat time trial, never looking in command and finishing some 3:36 down on stage winner Tony Martin and – more importantly – 2:44 down on his Tour de France rival Chris Froome (Sky).
While Contador has never since reached the same time trial heights of his 2009 season – at least on a consistent level – Porte refrained from overlooking the Spaniard’s Tour ambition, at least completely.
“You can never really rule him out. You wouldn’t have thought Cadel Evans would have finished third in the Giro either. It’s not over yet and there are still a few more weeks. If anyone in the peloton knows how to win the Tour it’s Alberto Contador,” Porte told Cyclingnews.
“It’s not really my thing but it’s always nice to see Alberto Contador’s cars coming back to you. It’s early days but I’m quite happy with that ride.
“At the first time check I had a fair bit on him but it’s always nice to catch Alberto Contador but I didn’t quite expect to catch him that quickly.”
When asked about Contador’s Tour de France form with the race less than three weeks away, Porte gave an indication of the mental blow the Spaniard may have suffered today.
“I’m only Sky’s second man and there’s another fella still in the van who is much quicker than me, so I think that puts us in a good place in the team for the Tour GC.
“I had a month relatively easy and I’ve only really started training in the last couple of weeks. It’s been a good start to the season and to win Paris-Nice was a massive mental gain.”
Finally, Porte was asked why Contador has lost his time trial domination.
“I guess a year with no racing doesn’t help but he was pretty dominant last year in the Vuelta too,” he said. “Maybe he’s a little off his game but he’s still got three weeks to find his A game.”