Melbourne - Richie Porte's years as a loyal Tour de France underling are paying off as he fights to become only the second Australian to win the race, Cadel Evans said on Thursday.
Evans, the 2011 champion, is missing the tour for the first time in 10 years as countryman Porte maintained his overall second placing, 2 min 23sec behind Italy's Vincenzo Nibali after Wednesday's 11th stage.
On a fleeting trip home to launch his own event - the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race - he praised the job Porte had done to put himself in contention after taking over as Team Sky leader when defending champion Chris Froome crashed out a week ago.
"Richie, physically, he's certainly got the capabilities to do a great three weeks, as he's shown in years gone by," Evans told reporters.
"He spent a long time with Froome and a long time with (2012 champion Bradley) Wiggins for their two victories."
Evans warned that Nibali would be "hard to beat," but Porte, 29, was being rewarded for those tours ridden selflessly to help the two most recent winners.
He said in the past Porte could have the odd bad day.
"But he's in a different position now. He's a year older, a year more experienced, a year more mature and maybe if he can avoid that day he's going to be well positioned, at least for the podium.
"All the best for him because he's a great guy and from what I see he's given so much to his team-mates."