The Australian finished second to Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) on the climb to Leysin and now sits second overall, 19 seconds off Yates’ race lead with just Sunday’s 18.3km time trial around Lausanne remaining.
By the time Porte sprung into action on Saturday, Yates had flown and opened up a 45 second gap by the time the riders hit the final climb. Porte’s acceleration was so brutal no one from the group containing the GC favourites could counter. He caught Yates, and the pair drove towards the line before Yates came around the BMC rider to take the stage.
"I showed today that I’m climbing really well," Porte told Cyclingnews on the phone after the stage. "I never thought this morning that I’d be in the position that I’m in. I couldn’t drop Yates on the climb. I gave him a few kicks but couldn’t get rid of him. When I caught him I asked him to work with me. He called me a few things but that’s racing, and we get along just fine. I congratulated him at the finish. All is fair in love and war."
Porte knew the significance of the stage, having arrived in Switzerland two days prior to the race. He rode recon with teammate Tejay van Garderen and had expected the race to stay together until the final climb. Team Sky set the pace for much of the day, but having blown the race apart they cracked on the penultimate ascent with Chris Froome even losing ground on the final run-in. With Sky unable to set the pace, several riders attempted to go clear.
"To be honest I didn’t see it turning out like it did," Porte said. "I wanted to hit them with 500m to go. Tejay and I came in here two days early to look at the climb and the time trial. I knew the climb but I didn’t expect the race to explode like it did.
"It worked out well when I attacked. I had Tejay covering moves and he did a great job in doing that. The last 60km were an absolute mess. You had good GC guys jumping and the race was uncontrolled. I was really happy with my team though. They did a fantastic job, from Nico Roche, Danilo Wyss and Michael Schär.”
Porte will be quietly confident of overturning the 19 second deficit to Yates, but the final podium is still wide open. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) are both within a minute of Yates.
"Yates had a much better prologue than me," Port said. "I was a little cautious and didn’t want to crash. We’ll see. I’ve done quite a lot of specific time trial work. I know he’s good against the clock but Roglic is still in it, and we’ve seen how he’s been time trialing. I want to win this race, but I know it’s going to be hard."