Having twice finished second in seven previous appearances at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Richie Porte managed to add the week-long stage race to his palmarès after defending his lead in Les Gets on Sunday.
The Australian, racing the Dauphiné for the first time since returning to Ineos Grenadiers after five years at BMC and Trek, fended off a series of attacks from his GC rivals in the final kilometres of stage 8, eventually sealing the maillot jaune with an untouched 17-second advantage over Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech).
Porte, who had to make do without the aid of teammate Geraint Thomas for much of the finale after the Welshman crashed near the bottom of the Joux Plane descent, described the victory as a "dream" after the stage, describing the result as his own personal Tour de France win.
"For me this is the race I've been so close to winning so many times, but to finally finish it off – and with the team I've had to help me do it – it's an absolute dream come true, and it hasn't sunk in just yet," Porte told assembled media after sealing his overall win.
"I'm under no illusions," he added when asked about his hopes for the Tour. "I'm here to help out. I think that the way Tao [Geoghegan Hart] and Geraint and those guys helped me, I'd love to repay them. I don't need the stress and pressure [to lead at the Tour] – I don't know how they do it. For me, this feels like a Tour de France victory.
"This race, having been second here twice and once year losing second in the last kilometre, to finally win it I'm just over the moon. All the sacrifices, time away from my wife and two kids, is worth it."
Porte didn't have the final 147-kilometre stage all his own way though, despite having Tour and Giro winners to rely on in the form of Thomas and Geoghegan Hart.
A small drama in Cluses saw the 36-year-old forced to change bikes after a mechanical before chasing back on before the Haute Categorie climb of the Joux Plane, while he was left isolated on the final uncategorised climb to Les Gets after Thomas slid out on a corner before his teammate made it back two kilometres from the line.
While attacks from Miguel Ángel López (Movistar) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) near the top of the Joux Plane were kept largely under control, Lutsenko joining the latter on the move down the descent had potential to cause alarm. The road to Les Gets saw attacks from Lutsenko, his teammate Izagirre and the Australian duo of Haig and Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën), with the latter stealing away to grab fourth at the finish.
But Porte was calm, having prior knowledge of the Joux Plane descent, being confident in his team, and also getting help from his countrymen – inadvertent or not.
"Breaking my bike on the penultimate descent wasn't really great and it wasn't straightforward," Porte said. "We changed the bike and it's a bit like a duck out of water - certain times you're waiting for attacks - but when you've got so much talent in depth, it does make it a bit easier.
"I know the descent of the Joux Plane well and we've done it many, many times, so decided to do it at my own pace. When I saw Geraint crash it wasn't ideal for the last six kilometres. He has some pretty bad road rash, but he'll be tip-top for the Tour.
"We had a couple of Australians there [in the final] and Jack was always going to help me out and maybe Ben helped me close the gap to those guys on the descent."
With the Dauphiné now over – his sixth WorldTour stage race victory – and the Tour de France looming at the end of the month, the focus will now turn back to the role Ineos signed him for – helping the team win the season's biggest race once again.
"But full credit to Geraint because coming into this race he said he was all in for me and come July I'll hopefully be returning the favour for him and help him to win the Tour."
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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