Richie Porte’s bittersweet Tour de France will have massive implications for the Australian cycling star.
Allan Peiper, the performance manager at Porte’s BMC team, says the Tasmanian’s strong form makes him a realistic Olympic medal chance in the road race and time trial events.
But well beyond this month, Peiper says Porte’s breakthrough fifth place overall last month at the Tour means he is now their No.1 rider for the race.
Peiper, a former Australian pro rider, said on Tuesday BMC would abandon this year’s strategy of co-leadership between Porte and American Tejay van Garderen.
Only rotten luck stopped Porte finishing second overall behind three-time winner Chris Froome and he described missing the podium as bittersweet.
But van Garderen inexplicably had a bad Tour and was well off the pace.
“The way he (Porte) rode the Tour … going forwards to next year’s Tour, we go from hope to realistic ambition,” Peiper told AAP.
“By all rights, he should have been second at the Tour.
“What I said to him the other day, then you go from being a contender to a challenger.
“It’s something great he can take away already, moving towards the Olympics and next year.”
Peiper confirmed BMC would throw all their resources behind Porte as a Tour contender.
“We can see really clearly that we have to support Richie 100 per cent,” he said.
Froome remains the man to beat at the Tour and this month will aim for an unprecedented Olympic gold medal double in the two men’s road events.
When asked about Porte’s hopes of winning the Tour, Peiper pointed to Cadel Evans, the only Australian winner.
Peiper noted Evans needed several shots at the title before his 2011 triumph.
“Richie is not Chris Froome, he’s not (Alberto) Contador but he’s a great bike rider,” Peiper said.
“If the circumstances all line up at the same time … then he’s challenging, he can throw down the gauntlet and then we see what happens.”
Peiper added the hilly courses for the road race and time trial would suit Porte’s strengths in Rio.
“Definitely Richie, when you see him climbing, it’s a work of art and we saw that at the Tour de France this year,” he said.
Porte’s BMC teammate and compatriot Rohan Dennis is also among the time trial medal contenders.”
Porte finished more than five minutes off the pace last weekend at the Clasica San Sebastian in Spain but it is unclear what that means about his form ahead of the Games.
He and the rest of the road team are in Rio, with the men’s road race on the opening day of competition.
While the team lost Simon Gerrans to a broken collarbone during the Tour, Peiper said Simon Clarke was a first-class replacement.
Clarke will be Porte’s main lieutenant in the road race.
“If Richie has anyone next to him, Simon Clarke is probably the perfect guy to have,” Peiper said.