LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES, France (Reuters) - Richie Porte made a strategic mistake in showing his hand ahead of the decisive final climb in the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, three-times champion Greg LeMond said.
The Australian’s BMC Racing team took up the pressure of controlling the peloton all day long, expending energy in chasing a six-man breakaway - a move that in cycling often suggests the leader is going for the stage win.
“If I was Richie Porte I would not announce to the whole peloton that I was going to attack,” LeMond, on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, told Reuters.
Teams take control of the peloton when they want to set up a massive sprint or when they are defending the yellow jersey, for instance.
Chris Froome’s Team Sky had the yellow jersey on Geraint Thomas’s shoulders and it would have normally be their responsibility to chase on a searing hot day in eastern France.
“If you are good, save your team until the later part of the stage. I did not see the point of what they were doing,” said LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990.
He suggested that BMC Racing should have let Sky handle the chase.
“Leave it to the favourites, put the pressure on them,” he said.
“He put the pressure on himself. Why do that? It’s a three-week race and you’re 16 days out, you have to save your team.”
As a result, Porte was on his own midway through the final ascent while Froome still had five team mates around him.
While he was targeting the stage win, he had to be content with fourth place, just behind Froome and 20 seconds adrift of stage winner Fabio Aru of Italy.
Overall, Porte is fifth, 39 seconds behind Froome.
“I don’t understand that type of strategy,” said LeMond.
“There are no bragging rights. At the end of the day, it’s a three-week race.”
LeMond said Aru could have a key role to play.
“Fabio Aru could be a player, he could be a factor,” said LeMond.
“His acceleration was a pretty good effort, it was a real win. He was exciting to see, Froome did not just let him go.”
Sunday’s ninth stage is a punishing trek in the Alps, featuring three out-of-category climbs and ending with a treacherous descent to Chambery, where Froome could be exposed should his rivals attack him relentlessly.
“Porte and Aru will probably go for it,” said LeMond, adding that France’s Romain Bardet, runner-up last year, should also be in contention.
Editing by Ed Osmond