BMC Racing pair, Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis finished fifth and sixth respectively on the queen stage of the Tour de Romandie, with both riders solidifying their top-10 places ahead of Sunday’s final stage.
Initially, neither rider was able to live with the attacks from Egan Bernal (Team Sky) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) on the final ascent of the day but Porte latched onto the leaders on the descent towards the finish in Sion and finished fifth on the stage, with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) taking the win.
Dennis finished over a minute down, leading home a group of climbers that included Pierre Latour and Jaime Roson. The result leaves Porte in third overall, with Dennis four places back in seventh. Although both riders are targeting different races this season – Dennis will lead at the Giro d’Italia and Porte at the Tour de France – they both put in respectable performances.
“I was hoping that wouldn’t have to go as deep as I did today,” Dennis told Cyclingnews as he warmed down on the rollers outside the BMC Racing team bus.
“Tomorrow is still going to be tough. It’s still Romandie and it’s always aggressive even if the profile doesn’t say it. I’m sure it will be tough. And then it’s about recovery before the Giro. I tried to sit on a pace that I could hold until the top and not completely explode. I eventually ground my way back towards the front group just before the top, which in the end wasn’t really that important because nearly everyone came back. In the end, Bernal and Roglic were too strong for everyone on the climbs and if they wanted to I think they could have gone 1-2 by themselves.”
Porte came into the race needing a morale-boosting performance after a spring that was blighted by flu and mediocre results. He finished third in the key uphill time trial at Villars, and while he could not initially respond to Bernal’s powerful attacks on Les Collons he set his own pace and made it into the lead group on the descent. He will not be able to defend his 2017 Romandie crown, with Roglic set to seal that on Sunday, but the Australian has shown enough to indicate that his Tour de France challenge is back on track.
"It was hard all day today. Even on the first climb, the race exploded but I felt really good. I need to give credit to my teammates and today, Joey Rosskopf and Danilo Wyss did a super impressive job for me. They were really great and with Danilo's local knowledge, he always kept me in a good position,” Porte said.
"I'm not in top shape at the moment. I had an interrupted run into this race so I am quite happy with how things are going so far. I was happy that I was able to claw back to Bernal and Roglic, who are a level above me at the moment, by the top of the climb. It was also nice to finish in such a select group. I think tomorrow the goal will be to protect our podium position, and also Rohan Dennis, who has had a good race too. He is up there as well on the GC, which is great for his confidence going into the Giro d'Italia. The guys have been super in protecting me this week so hopefully, we will finish the job off and be on the podium at the end of the day."