Twice second in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Richie Porte moved into an ideal position to win this elusive title after finishing second to Mark Padun at La Plagne, taking over the yellow jersey with just one stage to go.
Porte admitted that he hadn't planned to go from so far out but made his move with 8.5 kilometres remaining after being given the nod by Ineos Grenadiers teammate Geraint Thomas.
"At the end of the day, it was a good move. It's nice to have numbers and a strong team to be able to do that," the Australian said.
He admitted that he didn't feel super when he made his attack, where he was joined by Movistar's Enric Mas, Jumbo-Visma's Sepp Kuss and stage-winner Padun. "I did it more with the thought that maybe Geraint was going to springboard over and I'd empty myself for him," he said of Thomas.
"Padun was impressive," he said of the stage winner. "When Sepp Kuss and him went, I was more worried about Mas, who wouldn't work with me, but I guess that's down to the tactics. It worked perfectly as Geraint and Tao [Geoghegan Hart] were back there."
Porte was reminded of the last time he led the lead in the Dauphiné going into the final stage, back in 2017 when he ended up losing the title to Jakob Fuglsang at the end of a frantic stage.
"I've been here before, four years ago, and I know how the last stage of this race can pan out, so I know it's going to be a battle tomorrow. But I'm happy. I'm 36 years old and I'm wearing a jersey," he said.
Asked if he felt a sense of revenge, Porte replied: "My revenge isn't really with Jakob, but this is one of the races that I haven't won that I'd really love to win. I know everybody's going to want to attack, but we have a strong team here. We've got Geraint up there too and I don't think we're going to be fussy as long as one of us wins."
Porte said he feels like he's come back to his racing home having joined Ineos this season having previously spent four seasons with Sky. "It's fantastic to be back racing in this team, I enjoyed my last years but I do feel like I'm home here," he said.
"I loved my time at Trek, but I did feel the pressure, and also at BMC. I like being here where I never really get asked to do interviews and don't have to do much social media. I get left alone. And I think that's how I like to be and I think in two years' time, I'll be retired and you won't hear a thing from me and it's just how I would like it to be."
Thomas described himself as being "full-on" on the final climb to La Plagne and added: "I felt really good actually. The last couple of days I've been a bit... I don't worry know, but after a couple of caffeine gels I felt a lot better."
The Welshman said the way the stage had unfolded had been ideal for Ineos. "We gave Richie his chance today. Now we're both in a really good position," he said.
"Movistar rode hard at the bottom of La Plagne and when they stopped, after Valverde did a turn, I just gave Richie a nod and he went and it was perfect. We just had to follow the moves behind, make sure Astana rode."
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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