You could forgive Richie Porte (BMC Racing) for getting a little bit carried away about his time trial victory on stage 4 of the Critérium du Dauphiné. With considerable damage inflicted on the other general classification contenders – most significantly 37 seconds on Chris Froome (Team Sky) – things look very rosy indeed. And not just for this week; Porte's performance marked the continuation of a run of form that comfortably outclasses that of any other true contender for the Tour de France.
The Australian, who won the Tour Down Under in January and the Tour de Romandie in late April, seemed to betray the almost disbelieving excitement at everything going so well as he sat down in front of the press in Bourgoin-Jallieu. He did, however, do his best to muster the customary notes of caution.
"I know Chris well, and I know he wouldn't be too happy with what happened today, but if there's anyone in the peloton who knows how to win the Tour, it's him," said Porte of his former teammate, a three-time Tour champion.
"I don't expect that's the last of him this week, and in July he's going to be on another level to what he is here."
Porte also argued that time trialling prowess is all very well and good, but it would count for more were the Tour de France route not so light on kilometres against the clock. There are just 36.5 of them, spread across the opening and penultimate days, while it's the mountains, spread throughout the three weeks, that have been billed as the theme of the route.
"It's nice to win a time trial against the field here, but definitely the Tour will be won more in the mountains than the time trials," said Porte.
"I'm quite confident in how I'm climbing, also. A time trial like that is a good test of where the form's at, but definitely I'd rather be climbing well than time trialling well."
The climbing has barely begun at the Dauphiné, and a trio of back-to-back mountain stages starting on Friday will give a truer indication of the pecking order going into July.
With a descent finish followed by two summit finishes, Porte, 27 seconds behind race leader Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), has 24 seconds over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 35 seconds over Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), 37 seconds over Froome, and over a minute to others, including 1:53 on Romain Bardet (AG2R).
"I've got a good gap but it doesn't count for much at the moment. They're going have to attack me," Porte said of his rivals.
"Some of the guys who want to do GC have lost a lot of time now so they might have to attack from a long way out. I'm ready for a hectic three days Friday through to Sunday."
Should he come through the mountainous test to win the Dauphiné – and Porte was arguably the standout climber at last year's Tour – he would stake a serious claim to being the top favourite for the maillot jaune this July, not least if Froome's top form remains absent for what's left of the week.
"We've seen in the past that if Chris Froome is good here, he's good at the Tour, so I just hope that's the same for me," said Porte.
"That's the dream isn't it," he added when asked about the yellow jersey. "There's still a lot of racing left here, then a bit of time at home. We've been to see what we need to see, and there's no more time at altitude.
"I'm relaxed and just in good frame of mind for the Tour. It's the biggest opportunity I've had so far."
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