The first mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia to Madonna di Campiglio marked a change of leadership at Team Sky, with Leopold König rising to fifth overall, while Richie Porte plummeted to 27th after finishing more than 27 minutes down.
Porte had said he was unsure about continuing in the Giro d’Italia after hurting his knee and hip in the Jesolo crash and then losing four minutes in the long time trial to Valdobbiadene.
He fought on and pinned on a number for the stage to Madonna di Campiglio but was dropped early on the Passo Daone as the pace increased and was distanced even more on the climb to the finish. He was 10 minutes behind not far from Madonna di Campiglio but seemed to throw in the towel as the climb kick up and finished 88th in a small group at 27:04.
At the finish Porte quickly wrapped a towel round is neck, zipped up his cape but did not speak to the media waiting for him at the finish. It is unknown if he will stay at the Giro d’Italia and try to win stages or head home to lick his wounds, rest up and think about the Tour de France.
König also wrapped up for the short descent to Team Sky’s hotel in Madonna di Campiglio. He described his stage as 'shit’ but confirmed he is now Team Sky’s man for the overall classification at the Giro d’Italia. His proven consistency in Grand Tour could see him finish in the top five.
“I felt pretty bad and was just trying to take as much time as possible on other GC contenders,” König explained in excellent English after also speaking to Czech reporters.
“I’m a little disappointed I lost some time. I had a small incident yesterday, hitting my knee, and I woke up this morning and it was pretty swollen. I had a lot of pain in my legs in the first half of the stage. You never know how things are going to be after the time trial.
“The team said that I should be ready for the responsibility of the GC. I’m up there, so the priority is a little different now. We’re going to try go for the GC with me, try to keep the red jersey (with Elia Viviani) and try to win as many stages as possible.
“I’m not far from the podium but I just hope that those two stupid minutes (lost in the crash in Jesolo) won’t make a big difference in Milan. I think I’m a three-week rider and we’ve done just two for now… I’m quite consistent and this is my level right now. I hope to recover on the rest day a little. I’m really looking forward to the last week because I’m in a good position.”
König seemed upbeat about the challenge he faces and the opportunity he has in the final week of the Giro d’Italia. But he was also sorry for Porte’s demise.
“I’m really gutted for him because he’s been great this season and has been really consistent,” he said. “We’ve seen in the past that the guys in Sky who have won races from the beginning of the season, they won a Grand Tour as well but with Richie that’s not the case. I think he really deserved a leadership role here and deserved to be up there. He had a bit of bad luck and there’s nothing we can do now.”
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