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Porte melts as Tour de France hits the high mountains

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Richie Porte (Team Sky) takes time to answer a few questions before the start of stage 11

Richie Porte (Team Sky) takes time to answer a few questions before the start of stage 11 (Image credit: ASO/G. Demouveaux)
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Richie Porte (Team Sky)

Richie Porte (Team Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/
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Riche Porte (Sky)

Riche Porte (Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/

Outside the Team Sky bus in the Alpine ski resort of Chamrousse, the usual clamour of journalists and TV cameras fought for a front-row seat for an audience with the British team.

But this wasn't a happy show this time: not a win by Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins, but the aftermath of a bad day for Richie Porte – the team's leader at the 2014 Tour de France in the absence of both the 2013 and 2012 Tour winners.

Due to the circumstances under which the Australian has been thrust into a leadership role at the world's biggest bike race – the result of Froome crashing out on stage five – Sky have been careful not to put too much pressure on the 29-year-old's shoulders, and it was a philosophical Dave Brailsford who faced the media to try to explain what had happened.

Porte finished the stage 8:48 down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali, and, after a short warm-down on his stationary trainer, during which he put on a brave – and, in fact, smiling – face for the cameras, he disappeared onto the team bus, leaving team manager Brailsford to hold court in the sunshine outside.

“We've enjoyed a lot of good days – more good days than bad days, I think – and this has been a tough day. But that's sport isn't it?” shrugged Brailsford. “You've got to win with dignity, and, when it doesn't go your way, you've just got to hold your head up high and go again.

“It was a tough day for Richie, but he'll bounce back, I'm sure,” he continued. “And there are plenty more days to come when we can race to the best of our ability.”

Brailsford explained that there had been no signs ahead of the stage that Porte – who started the day in second place overall, 2:23 down on Nibali, but had dropped to 16th place, at 11:11, by the end of the stage – was going to struggle on this first day in the high mountains. The intense heat, however, could have played a part, he admitted.

“Richie was fine and feeling pretty optimistic this morning,” said Brailsford. “I think he was actually quite looking forward to this stage, and I think the length of the [final] climb suited him, so we certainly didn't see it coming, that's for sure.

“We knew it was going to get hot after the first rest day, and we were a bit concerned about that, obviously, but then that's the same for everybody,” he continued. “And I don't think Richie particularly suffers in the heat, but the transition from cold to hot can maybe catch you out, and it was that that we'd been a bit worried about. But it's not an excuse; it's not been a great day, and we've got to hold our heads up and get on with it. Right now, Richie's disappointed, and, when you're disappointed, it's not the time to start analysing everything. You just support the lad.”

That disappointment was evident in Porte's later assessment of his own performance, admitting on Team Sky's website that he didn't think he dealt with the heat very well.

“It's one of those things. It's a massive shame, but we'll see what happens tomorrow,” Porte said.

“I feel more for my teammates who have been brilliant for me every day,” he added. “But if it happens to me, it can happen to other guys, too. We'll just keep on pushing.”

It was a sentiment that tallied with Brailsford's own thoughts about what the team's next move will be.

“When you have a bad day, you keep on persevering, and go back and try to get another good day,” said Brailsford. “Today certainly wasn't the Richie we've seen in the first part of this race, so you've just got to rest and recover and try to go again tomorrow.”


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