While AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet faltered on the final climb of La Planche des Belles Filles on stage 6 of the Tour de France, Richie Porte was able to keep pace with his fellow GC leaders, and now finds himself 21st overall, 1:56 down on his Trek-Segafredo teammate and new race leader Giulio Ciccone, but only 1:07 down on defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos).
Both Bardet and Porte struggled with their respective squads in the team time trial on stage 2 last Sunday, but Porte proved that he was more than capable of staying in the mix with the best when the road rose upwards on Thursday's sixth stage.
In the scramble for the finish line among the GC contenders in the final kilometre of gravel road, Porte stuck with fellow favourites Mikel Landa (Movistar), Astana's Jakob Fuglsang and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos), losing just a handful of seconds to Bernal's teammate Thomas and French favourite Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
"We had a couple of guys in the breakaway [Ciccone and Julien Bernard], and Ciconne took the yellow jersey," a satisfied Porte told Australian TV channel SBS at the finish. "So it was a great day for the team. It was a hard final, but I think everything's going pretty well."
Asked whether he thought that Team Ineos appeared to have fewer riders up at the front than in past years when the Tour has visited La Planche des Belles Filles, Porte – a former rider at Ineos's past guise as Team Sky – agreed.
"I was surprised by that," he said. "[Wout] Poels wasn't there... It's interesting to see, as it was kind of [team] leader versus leader. But I don't think it's how it's going to be the whole race. I think this is a climb that's more like you find at the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta a Espana, so I think when Ineos have to control, they'll be able to control.
"I'm not too far off. I was happy with where I finished, so things are good," Porte added with regard to his own form on the climb, although when then asked by an NBCSN reporter what the final climb was like, the Australian was succinct: "Horrible," he said.
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