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Porte secures white jersey and likely top-eight finish

It looks likely that Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) will defend his best young rider classification lead through to Verona.

It looks likely that Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) will defend his best young rider classification lead through to Verona. (Image credit: Sirotti)

Saxo Bank's Richie Porte successfully defended his best young rider jersey during the last two mountain stages of the Giro d'Italia. Therefore, he'll ride the final time trial of Verona with the white jersey.

After the finish of the Giro d'Italia's penultimate day at the Passo del Tonale, the Tasmanian went on stage to receive his white jersey as well as the pink kisses of the race hostesses for the 20th consecutive day of racing. Porte assumed the rank of best young rider at the prologue in Amsterdam and has never relinquished the top position.

He also wore the pink overall leader's jersey for three days after being part of a large breakaway on stage 11 en route to L'Aquila, but he revealed to Cyclingnews that he had been close to not starting the following stage.

When he showed up to Città Sant'Angelo at the start of stage 12, he hadn't slept at all that night. "I had diarrhea and a bit of everything," said the man who was up sick all night. "My health was pretty bad, and I didn't really enjoy being in pink because I was suffering badly during those days, but my team decided to keep it quiet so as not to let our adversaries know about my sickness and weakness."

Porte had a hard time again as the race went up to Livigno during stage 20 on Saturday. "I was dead," he said. "I was finished. It was hard to fight up that hill, but my whole team dragged me back, and I was ok later."

A couple of days ago, the white jersey was Porte's only obsession, but Saxo Bank directeur sportif Kim Andersen convinced him to ride for GC since he was in second going into the final mountain stages. With the mountains done, he is sixth with only a six-second advantage over Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), who could overtake him in the final stage's time trial.

But Porte is a good time trialist, too. He won the race against the clock at the Tour of Romandie, and he should finish ahead of Carlos Sastre tomorrow. The captain of Cervélo TestTeam is 1:30 down on him in eighth place although they both were in the big breakaway of stage 11. It means that Porte has climbed at least as well as the winner of the 2008 Tour de France.

"This has been an incredible trip for me," said the Tasmanian rookie, who rode in Italy as an amateur until last year. "This is the best Grand Tour I could have had. To make the top 10 is amazing."

In his first attempt, Porte is has already logged a better result than his personal coach Bradley McGee, whose best performance in the Giro d'Italia was eighth overall in 2004. "But Brad is still the best," Porte said with admiration for the World and Olympic champion who is now a directeur at Saxo Bank.