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ANDORRA (VN) — Did a puncture in stage 2 cost Richie Porte a shot at the Tour de France podium? BMC Racing is hoping that’s not the case.
The scrappy Tasmanian was at the sharp end of the stick Sunday, and crossed the line just two seconds behind Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). An unlucky puncture late in stage 2 — just outside the “safe zone” of 3km to go — cost him 1:45. He’s been on an uphill battle ever since, but Sunday’s steady ride revealed he’s one of the strongest riders in the Tour.
Take away that puncture, Porte would more or less even on time with Quintana. Instead, despite three solid days across the Pyrénées, he is 14th at 2:10 back.
“I put some time into some other GC guys, so it’s a good day,” Porte said after the stage. “I need to get time back, so that’s what I was thinking [with the late attack]. The team was fantastic today, we worked quite well together.”
With how Porte was riding Sunday, that puncture will likely haunt the team all the way to Paris.
As the rain-soaked GC contenders slogged up the hors categorie steeps of Arcalis, the hollowed climb that delivered Jan Ullrich to the yellow jersey in 1997, Porte was keen to make up for lost time.
Two early surges split the GC group, putting the GC pack on the rivet. Porte kept looking back, watching out for BMC Racing teammate Tejay van Garderen. Porte crossed the line just behind Froome, Quintana and Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange). Van Garderen came across 37 seconds adrift of his teammate.
Porte and van Garderen insist they’re riding as a unit, and the American admitted his Australian teammate was stronger on the day.
“Richie was obviously a lot better than me, but we just look forward,” said van Garderen, now 11th at 1:01 back. “The first real mountain day of the Tour I always tend to struggle more than the other ones, so I think it can only get better from here.”
Porte has been steadily climbing the overall classification. After his puncture in stage 2, he was in 81st overall. He punched into the top 30 with 27th on Wednesday’s stage into the Massif Central, and nudged into 18th on Saturday.
With the hardest part of the race still ahead, Porte cannot afford to have the bad day that has sometimes haunted him in grand tours. On Sunday, he emerged as one of the strongest riders in the race.
“It would have been nice to get a bit more of a gap, but I’m guessing that they’re not just going to let me ride away like that,” Porte said. “I feel good. Physically, I know where I am, and that’s in a good place.”
There is not a lot of “fluff” ahead of him on GC. To climb back into podium range won’t be easy, but Sunday’s ride proved Porte is going to go down swinging.