Richie Porte (Sky) may have lost a little time on stage one of the Ruta del Sol, but he nonetheless moved up from seventh to second overall after finishing in the group closest to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on Thursday’s uphill finish in Jaén.
Sky worked hard to keep the pace high on the climb up to Jaén castle, and Porte praised his team for eliminating so many rivals en route to the final right-hand turn where Valverde started to accelerate away, gaining four seconds on a group of five riders, including the Australian.
Now 19 seconds down on Valverde, the Tasmanian believes that he can yet turn the tables on the Spaniard, and Thursday’s climb was certainly far easier than the race’s toughest summit finish on Friday – the ascent to Cabra sanctuary is almost certain to settle the overall classification.
“Valverde is obviously in great shape, yesterday [Wednesday] he already showed that he was absolutely flying and he’s very motivated for one of his home races,” Porte told Cyclingnews as he waited for other riders to finish.
“There’s still a few more hard days where we can fight back, tomorrow [Friday] in particular, so we’ll see what happens.”
As for stage two up from the Meditteranean coast through the Axarquia mountains and then across to the sierras of Jaén, Porte recognised that “it was a tough finish, but the stage looked a lot harder on paper than it actually turned out to be.
“The team was absolutely brilliant, Geraint [Thomas] did a hell of a job on the last climb.”
Overall, Porte said he was “pleased with my form, I’m pretty much where I want to be,” and it’s certainly clear in Andalusia he has not lost the strong condition that has already allowed him to take a stage of the Tour Down Under and finish on the podium of the Australian National Championships in January this year.