As his Team Sky teammates prepared for a easy rest day ride in Madonna di Campiglio, Richie Porte quietly said his goodbyes and headed home from the Giro d’Italia, after his hopes of overall victory were dashed by a two-minute penalty for a wheel change, crashes and pain in his knee and hip.
Team Sky entrusted Porte with team leadership for the Giro d’Italia and he seemed on track to challenge Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru after convincing winning Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and the Giro del Trentino. He rode intelligently in the first half of the race as Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo fought tooth and nail but then his overall hopes took a body blow on stage 10 to Forli, when race commissaires hit him with a two-minute penalty.
The penalty was a mental blow and hurt Porte’s morale. A physical blow came on stage 13 to Jesolo, when he was caught up in a pile-up with 3.3km to go. He hurt his knee and his hip and lost a further two minutes. He lost a further four minutes as he suffered in the time trial. The mountain stage to Madonna di Campiglio saw him suffer even further, as he finished the stage in a gruppetto at 27 minutes.
“I guess that’s cycling. It’s a cruel sport. Instead of fighting into the final week, I’m on my way home,” Porte told Cyclingnews before leaving the Giro d’Italia, accepting to talk one last time despite his huge disappointment.
“It’s a strange thing mentally, to be so motivated for this race, to have come into it in great form and suddenly to find myself about to head home. I guess I’ll have to ride my bike in the not too distant future but it’s a hard one.”
Team Sky announced that the medical staff took the decision to withdraw Porte from the Giro. He told Cyclingnews he will travel to Manchester for a full diagnosis and treatment on his injuries. He revealed he was in pain as he fought to finish Sunday’s stage to Madonna di Campiglio.
“When you crash it depends on how your body comes out of it. My knee is not so good and my hip too. I knew that as soon as I had to get on Kiryienka’s bike in Jesolo. I couldn’t warm down after that stage and had a terrible time trial the day after,” he said.
Responding to the criticism
Parts of the Italian media and comments on social media have been especially harsh about Porte’s and Team Sky’s performance in the Giro d’Italia despite his problems originating from time penalties and crashes.
The team was criticised for not knowing the rules about wheel changes after stage ten and the decision to hire a huge motorhome for Porte, instead of sleeping in the race hotel like everyone else, was often ridiculed and used against them whenever Porte lost time.
Porte has suffered in silence in the last few days but wanted to give his side of the story, even if Team Sky would have preferred him to hide behind the official statement on the team’s website.
“It’s easy to sit there in front of the TV or the computer and criticise us riders,” he told Cyclingnews. “Maybe it doesn’t look hard but when you’re out there on stages like yesterday (to Madonna di Campiglio) it’s different. I can’t say how much pain I was in. It’s part of the sport. I’m not the first one to have bad luck in this Giro and I probably won’t be the last one. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”
“My luck definitely ran out and I’m on my way home. I knew that when I had the crash, it’s part of cycling. A foot to the right and I would have been fine. When Alberto crashed and hurt his shoulder (on stage 6) I was one of the last riders to get through and avoid that.”
Porte hopes to recover quickly and perhaps get ready for the Tour de France, where he was expected to ride in support of close friend Chris Froome. Before thinking about the Tour de France, he wants to rest up and recover.
“There’s still half the season to go. I’ve had a fantastic start to the season but now it’s time to recover,” he said before leaving Madonna di Campiglio.