After years of rooming and training together, Richie Porte knows Chris Froome well and regards him as anything but boring. One particular ride across the Italian border in Pigna is etched in his memory.
“This big snake crawled across the road and the next thing I know, Froomey’s dropped his bike and is running after it. It crawled up an embankment and Froomey was trying to grab it by the tail.
“He wanted to put it in a bag and bring it home… he’d had snakes as a kid, it looked like he knew what he was doing. As with anything with Froomey, there was no fear whatsoever.”
After the events of 2017's Critérium du Dauphiné, their bromance appears to be over. Going into the last day of the traditional Tour appetiser, the Australian was in the yellow jersey – deservedly so: he won the mid-race time-trial and accelerated on the penultimate stage to Alpe d’Huez with Jakob Fuglsang. Froome was his closest rival, 62 seconds down. It looked in the bag.
It wasn’t. On the last day, Froome attacked repeatedly on the first two climbs, the Saisies and Aravis, leaving Porte without any BMC team-mates. On the third mountain, the Col de Colombière, Fabio Aru and Alejandro Valverde attacked, gradually followed by his rivals, including third-placed Jakob Fuglsang.
Then, in the final few hundred metres of the climb, Froome dropped Porte. The Aussie chased on the valley road virtually alone before catching and passing his former leader on the final climb to Plateau de Solaison. Too little, too late; Fuglsang nicked the win by ten seconds.
“There were a few unsportsmanlike things that went on. It’s fair to say that there was an alliance amongst the stronger guys. That’s not uncommon in cycling. At the same time, my team-mates should have been there.”
“But when Dan Martin comes up to you and says that Chris is going around asking the other GC guys to gang up and attack Richie, that was quite a bitter pill to swallow,” Porte says.
Has it affected his friendship with Froome? “Certainly, on the bike, yes. I know it’s a race and this is what happens, but Chris is still genuinely one of my best friends off the bike and probably always will be. We’ve been through so many scraps together.”
“But look, I thought maybe with the service I’d given him for four years of my career, he might not have gone out of his way to attack me.
“Going into the Tour, it reminded me that friendships need to be put aside. Certainly, if I had the chance to return the favour in the future, I’d probably do it too,” Porte says.