Porte hoping to fly under the radar en route to Paris

Mulhouse, France: The Sky team of Richie Porte will be happy if the teams of Tour de France favourites Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali continue to "lock horns", hoping it could result in their Australian leader flying under the radar.

Asked if Sky aim to take advantage of the battle between the Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo teams of Nibali and Contador respectively, David Brailsford, team principal of the British Sky team said: “We would be crazy not to.

"If you are in our situation and there are two big characters, two big teams, who are looking to lock horns, our game plan has to be more about biding our time and taking our chances and waiting for the right moment.

“You always have to be ready, alert and look for your opportunity. For the time being, there are two teams slugging it out with each other. Let’s see if we can capitalise on that.”

Brailsford was speaking on Sunday after German Tony Martin, of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, soloed to win the 170km ninth stage in the Vosges from Gerardmer to Mulhouse.

The stage, raced under the grey skies and regular rainfall that has continued for much of the Tour since it began on July 5, saw a change in the overall lead.

Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) became the new yellow jersey wearer for Monday’s 10th stage, 161km from Mulhouse to the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles, which will be the last of three in the Vosges mountains.

Gallopin, 16th on the stage, was the highest placed rider overall in the group that finished 2m 45s behind Martin and did not include Nibali, Contador or Porte, who finished in a group of 83 riders that crossed the finish line 7m 46s after Martin.

With Gallopin starting the stage in 11th overall at 3m 27s, the time between the second and third groups behind Martin was enough to take the yellow jersey from Nibali.

Gallopin, while a handy hill climber, should not threaten for the overall win or even the top 10. So his claim to the yellow jersey will not be a worry for Nibali or any other major contender.

For Gallopin though, goes the honour of wearing the yellow jersey – or 'maillot jaune' – on Bastille Day today – an experience that however he fares will go down for him as a career high.

Heading into the 10th stage, Gallopin leads overall by 1m 34s on second placed Nibali, and 2m 34s over Tiago Machado (Netapp) of Portugal, in third.

Porte has dropped from third to fifth at 3m 32s, while Contador from sixth to ninth at 4m 8s. But those changes are not a concern.

The overall order should undergo a massive shake-up on Monday, with the stage including six categorised climbs before the final 5.9km ascent to the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles.

Porte may not go as unnoticed as Brailsford may wish. After Saturday’s eighth stage, Nibali said: “Porte is very strong and will be a dangerous rival. He was going to be the last man for Froome, and now he is the leader of a powerful team with Sky.

“We can see he is strong. He will be a man to watch in the fight for the podium.”

But Brailsford believes that Porte is still ready for the challenge, and can milk the benefit of his experience in having raced for past Tour winners like Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Chris Froome a year later.

Porte also knows Contador well, having ridden for him as a teammate in both the 2011 Giro d’Italia and that year’s Tour when the Spaniard backed up to place fifth overall.

“What we have experienced in the last few years is Chris riding with Bradley and learning a lot, then putting that to use himself,” Brailsford said.

“Then Richie has ridden for Froomey – and particularly last year he rode ever so well for him – and you learn a lot from that.

“They are learning by watching and being a round what those guys are doing.

“[Porte] has quite a lot of experience of what it takes to win a GC [general classification] without having done it. He has quite a lot of learning from that.”


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