Saxo Bank's young Richie Porte was escorted by Gustav Larsson to finish 16th in the gruelling Giro d'Italia stage seven over the strade bianche to Montalcino. After one week of hard racing, the Tasmanian is in the white jersey as the best young rider and in the top 10 in the general classification. He is the big revelation of the 2010 Giro d'Italia so far.
After receiving the white jersey at the end of the stage, he was still in shock after his experience on the gravelled roads. "This was hard," he said, looking exhausted even after some time to recover.
"I'm here because my team has done an incredible job for me, especially Laurent Didier, Baden Cooke and Larsson."
"To take the white jersey because of a crash isn't what I wanted," said Porte. Liquigas' Valerio Agnoli had the white jersey going into stage seven, but he crashed along with his Liquigas-Doimo team captain Vincenzo Nibali with 30km to go.
As of the end of Saturday, the Australian has a 1:38 lead over Nibali. Another Liquigas teammate, Croatian rider Robert Kiserlovski, sits as third best young rider at 2:05 while Bauke Mollema is fourth at 4:05 - perhaps not too much of a gap for the Dutch climber to close.
Porte explained his strategy for the Giro thus far. "My directeur sportif Kim Andersen told me to go for the GC that the white jersey would follow. I'm only a neo-pro, [so] to be up there with these guys is unbelievable."
The Tasmanian is 10th in the GC, two minutes down on race leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) as the race heads into stage eight on Sunday.