Richie Porte (BMC) has questioned the decision of the Tour de France organisers to include the sinuous descent of Mont du Chat on the route of this year's race. The Australian sustained a broken collarbone and pelvis when he crashed on the descent during Sunday's dramatic stage 9 to Chambery.
"I've heard the race director say a few things but a race is a race. Would they send their son or daughter down a descent like that, and feel happy? I'm not sure," Porte said in a conference call with Cyclingnews and CyclingTips on Friday. "For me, I just think that the spectacle should be the finish on top of a mountain, not having to take unnecessary risks to get to the bottom of a stage that turned out to be a few GC guys sprinting. Is that the greatest image for cycling? I don't really know."
Many riders – Porte included – were aware of the difficulty of the Mont du Chat descent after it featured at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, but being armed with prior knowledge could not eliminate all risk. Porte crashed out of the Tour, while Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) fell in the same incident and lost ground in the battle for the final podium in Paris.
"I wasn't going slower than the other guys [on the descent]," Porte said. "I touched my brakes on the corner and before it, there was a bit of debris on the roads. Dan Martin said to me that he had the same thing, and that his tyre locked up when he braked. That was it. I was offline at the next corner. The thing that I feel most guilty about was that I took Dan Martin down with me. I feel terrible about that. I think it's going to probably cost him a podium so that really hurts. If my bike goes down falling down mountain side and I fall into a rock face, is that safe? I don't know."
Porte is currently using a wheelchair due to his combination of injuries. "The problem is that I can't use crutches because of my collarbone. It's a little bit of a nightmare," he explained, though it means that he can at least allow his collarbone to heal naturally rather than undergo surgery.
It will be three weeks before Porte can put any pressure on his leg, and a further two – or more – before he can venture out onto the road on his bike. The Tasmanian was optimistic that he might at least pin on a race number again before the end of the season, perhaps at the Tour of Britain, but he is under no illusions about his level of performance when he does.
"I think with going out on the road, it will be at least two weeks after the initial three-week period before I'm back out. That's a fair bit of the season over and done with to be honest," Porte said. "If I come back I think I could ride the Tour of Britain or the Canadian races, just to help the team, because the amount of form I'll lose, the last part of the season is a write-off.
"I think any race I do, it's unfair to say that I'll be racing. I think I'll just be turning up and making the numbers up so I can lay the foundations for next season."
Porte will hope to draw on the experience of 2016, when his season ended prematurely after he crashed out of the Olympic Games road race in August. The lay-off segued into a solid off-season, testified by Porte's Tour Down Under victory in January, though he said that it was premature to be setting down plans for 2018 at this juncture.
"I threw a few things around with the team but they've said I need to recover before I think about it. It's just such a traumatic injury to have. No one really knows when I'll be able to even get out of the house. My coach isn't rushing me at all. I spoke to Jim the other day and he was saying that if they get any races out of me for the rest of the season, that's a bonus but not expected," Porte said.
"You get paid to race your bike and it's disappointing to not be able to do that for the team. But at the end of the day, if we have to replicate what we did this season, then I still think that I can have great season next year."
Porte began the Tour targeting overall victory and he lay 5th overall, 39 seconds off the yellow jersey, at the time of his abandon. Thursday's dramatic finale at Peyragudes, where Chris Froome (Sky) surprisingly conceded the lead, will only surely only have heightened Porte's regret at being forced out of the race.
"I'm not sure if it's a good thing to watch. Sitting there, mentally, I was looking forward to doing that stage, having done the recon. And seeing how that panned out, it was a little bit annoying not to be there in the race but it was great to see [Damiano] Caruso do a great ride for BMC," Porte said.
"To be honest, I would have disappointed not to have been on the podium in Paris this year. This wasn't the greatest Tour route for me but with the last time trial and the mountain stages that I missed, I could have really been up there. Yesterday [Romain] Bardet was brilliant but I was climbing with those guys before this all happened."
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