RICHIE Porte led the Tour de France peloton onto the Champs Elysees in fitting tribute to his key role in teammate Chris Froome’s victory in the 100th edition of cycling’s greatest race.
As the riders approached the finish in Paris, Froome (Sky) put a hand on Porte’s back and then paced him to the front of the bunch so he had the honour of being first onto the famous cobbles.
It was a reversal of roles after Porte – now widely considered a future winner himself – had piloted Froome safely through the Pyrenees and the Alps en route to Paris.
“I’d like to thank my teammates who have buried themselves day in and day out throughout this Tour to keep this yellow jersey on my shoulders,” Froome said on the podium following the 21st stage won by German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Argos).
“This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time.”
On its team website Sky acknowledged Porte “played a huge role as Froome’s wingman in the mountains – most notably on Alpe d’Huez when the yellow jersey had his most difficult day on the race”.
Former grand tour winner Sean Kelly on Sunday was quick to praise Porte – whose only bad day on the ninth stage cost him a chance of a podium finish.
“Porte has done a great job,” the Irish classics legend said.
“He’s a talented rider capable of winning a big tour himself in the years to come.”
It’s likely Froome will defend his Tour title in 2014 but Sky could well back Porte as team leader for either the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a Espana.
Having sacrificed himself for his leader, the 28-year-old Porte ended the Tour 19th on the general classification (GC) almost 40 minutes behind his teammate.
Former winner Cadel Evans (BMC) had a disappointing three weeks, finishing 39th some 1:30:14 in arrears in what now seems likely to be his last crack at the race he won in 2011.
He hopes to make amends in 12 months time but acknowledged on Sunday the team might have different ideas.
“Personally in my heart I don’t want to finish my Tour de France career like this,” he said.
“I’d like to finish on a much higher note.”
Evans said if he couldn’t aim for the podium in 2014 he would rather stay at home and watch the race on TV.
He praised Froome as “exceptional” saying he deserved to win “a particularly hard Tour”.
Mick Rogers was the best-placed Australian overall finishing 16th on GC 26:51 behind Froome.
He got to climb onto the Champs Elysees podium after his Saxo-Tinkoff outfit won the team classification.
Tasmanian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) again failed to deliver in the Tour’s most prestigious sprint and he can expect further scrutiny over his lack of results.
But his 12th place on Sunday couldn’t detract from Orica-GreenEdge’s great performance in the first week.
Simon Gerrans won the third stage and took yellow the next day when Orica-GreenEdge won the team time trial.
The Victorian passed the race leader’s jersey to teammate Daryl Impey after the sixth stage and the South African kept it until the race hit the Pyrenees.
Froome won the 2013 Tour by 4:20 from young Colombian climber Nairo Quintana (Movistar) while Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) came in third a further 44 seconds back. – AAP