As Richie Porte (BMC Racing) no doubt will be aware, the final podium at the Criterium du Dauphine can change in the blink of an eye. So with one stage still to go the Australian will be wary of celebrating before the moment he crosses the line on stage 8.
Porte leads the race by over a minute from Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), with the former virtually admitting that the race for the yellow jersey was effectively over after Porte dropped him on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez during stage 7.However stage 8, the final day’s racing in this year’s Dauphine, is far from straightforward, with four major climbs sandwiched into just 115km between Albertville and Plateau de Solaison.
Last season, Porte lost out on a podium spot on the last climb of the last stage after Team Sky blocked him on the dash to the line. If that can happen in the final few hundred meters, then almost anything can happen over 115 kilometres of mountainous terrain.
“The stages like tomorrow are always the trickiest,” Porte said in his stage 7 post-race press conference.
“There are guys who are around a minute off GC, and you just don’t know who is going to try and jump in the breakaway or attack. Tactically for us we’ve got a really good team, and I’m going to rely on them tomorrow. We’ll see who wants to gamble their GC because Jakob Fulgsang showed that he’s in super form, too, and I’m not sure he would rather podium.”
Fabio Aru has looked spritely in this year’s race and sits fourth at 1:41, while Alejandro Valverde, Romain Bardet and Alberto Contador are all within 2:15 of Porte. Contador has steadily improved over the last few days and although his gaze is firmly on the Tour he may initiate an early break over a parcours that suits him.
“Guys like Valverde and Froome are probably going to attack, but with the team I have here maybe I can take a bit of a back seat and let them do the groundwork like they did today and then I can try and finish it off.”
Should Porte withstand the challenge from his GC rivals on the final day – and there’s every indication that he will given his current form – then he will head into the Tour de France with this credentials greatly enhanced. Froome will remain the rider to beat come July but there’s no doubt that Porte has had the measure of him in both April’s Tour de Romandie and this month’s the Dauphine. Much has been made of Porte’s progress as we head to July - and the fact that he has raced so sparingly - but he saw that as an advantage when asked about it on stage 7.
“I’ve not raced a lot this year, but it’s been nice to have some time in between races, to go home and decompress from the stress because racing is stressful," Porte said. "It’s been nice this year that the team has put more faith in me. They see that when I’m at home I enjoy my training, so while 27 days of racing before the Tour isn’t a hell of a lot but I think it’s worked really well.”