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Giro's leader Porte exceptional in more than cycling

Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) is all smiles on the podium

Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) is all smiles on the podium (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Cameron Wurf is one of the three Tasmanians at the Giro d'Italia along with Matthew Goss and Riche Porte. Wurf has been working as a domestique for Michele Scarponi and therefore during yesterday's epic stage 11 to L'Aquila, he was asked by the management of his Androni-Diquigiovanni team to step back from the front group and pace at the head of the peloton.

It was the stage when Saxo Bank's Porte, who was in that front group, took back the race lead. After Porte regained the maglia rosa, Wurf shared some accounts of his fellow Tasmanian's early sporting history.

"There are two things people might not know about Richie," Wurf said to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 12. "He broke Cadel Evans' record of the ascent of Mount Wellington two years ago by one minute. This is the most famous climb we have in Tasmania. We always use it for training."

"Secondly, when he was a triathlete, he used to run the 10 kilometres under 30 minutes after swimming and cycling. In Australia, we always judge an athlete by how fast he can run. Or by how fast he can swim, but Richie was an exceptional swimmer, too."

Chronologically speaking, cycling is Porte's third sport. He switched from swimming to triathlon and then finally to cycling in 2006. "He's been a cyclist for four years only," said Andrea Tafi, who is the most recent Italian winner of Paris-Roubaix. Tafi welcomed Porte as an amateur in Tuscany and connected him to Saxo Bank, a team Tafi rode for when it was named CSC in 2003.

When Porte joined the Danish outfit, he impressed everyone during the winter training camp, when all the riders were asked to swim as long as they could underwater. The stars of that exercise had scored around 50 metres.

Then when the Australian neo-pro took his turn, some staff members and riders had a moment of panic as they didn't see Porte coming out where they expected. Instead, he swam a distance of 72 metres, giving an early indication to his new team and staff of his lung capacity.

Since this exploit, the "Tasmanian devil" Porte has been called "fish" at Saxo Bank.

In the coming stages, the fish will have a chance to swim some troubled waters as the defender of the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia.

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