Just a few minutes after he crossed the stage 5 finish line in Abetone in fifth place, Richie Porte (Team Sky) was already sufficiently recovered enough to talk to the press and reinforce the impression he had already given on the climb - that the Australian is ready for a real fight for the overall classification at the Giro d'Italia.
Porte was briefly left behind when Contador roared away up the climb with around five kilometres to go, but he quickly pounded across to the Spaniard alongside Fabio Aru (Astana) and then was able to handle the pace as Mikel Landa (Astana) led the quartet of riders up the rest of the climb.
The 30-year-old said he felt more than encouraged by his strong response to Contador’s challenge, and he now lies third overall, 20 seconds back on the Spaniard - all of which was time lost in the opening team time trial.
"I think after yesterday [stage 4 with Astana's mass attack] there were a lot of tired guys and it’s obviously nice to be in that group [of favourites]," Porte told reporters before wheeling his bike round and heading for the bus further down the climb.
"Hopefully I’m just going to be able to keep going like this day by day."
Although Contador said - and his teammate Mick Rogers independently collaborated - that his attack had not been planned, Porte argued that at the very least it was "expected, to be honest. It was lucky for Astana that Landa came across and did some good work. I'm happy where I'm at, feeling good and looking forward to keeping on fighting.
"It's not exactly the most difficult of climbs, but I got caught in a bit of a bad position there and when we caught Chavanel" - part of the early break and who finished second on the stage - "on the line I couldn't come round him. But I'm happy with where I'm at."
Although Porte arguably had other things on his mind on stage 5, the Australian was reminded by one Italian reporter that he used to train in the Abetone area and ride on the climb when he was an amateur living in Italy.
"Usually I did this climb from the opposite side, I remember this [stage 5 ascent] as more of a descent," Porte recalled. "But it's nice to come back here as a professional after slogging up here as an amateur." And if, as in Porte's case, he is currently lying third in Italy's biggest bike race, it must feel even better.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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