Holding onto his GC lead over the Critérium du Dauphiné's mountainous final stage was never going to be easy for BMC's Richie Porte, but attacks from all sides complicated matters perhaps even more than expected. When the dust settled on the Plateau de Solaison, Porte came up just short of his first career overall win in the race, relinquishing yellow to Astana's Jakob Fuglsang.
The 32-year-old Australian didn't mince words after the defeat, criticising what he saw as negative racing, but neither did he allow himself many regrets. After all, even dropping to second overall, he did handily best several major Tour de France rivals in the marquee Tour tune-up race with less than a month to go until the main event.
"It's obviously bitterly disappointing to lose by 10 seconds but I was against it from the start," Porte said. "There were teams that were happy to see me not win and sacrifice their own chances but I guess that's racing. It's maybe a lesson learnt for July but I'm happy with where I'm at."
The Dauphiné's many GC hopefuls came into the short but challenging eighth stage guns blazing, putting Porte under pressure from the start. Fuglsang was the day's big winner, of course, but the other GC contenders did plenty of attacking too. Sky's Chris Froome, who started the stage in second, jumped off the front early on, recovered after being pegged back, and then prepared for another strike.
Movistar's Alejandro Valverde and Astana's Fabio Aru attacked on the Col de la Colombière. By this point lacking teammates, an isolated Porte was left to chase. After biding their time in his wheel, several rivals then duly attacked to form what turned out to be the winning selection.
Porte vented his frustration after the defeat, wondering if things might have been different had he been able to rely on a bit more team support, and also suggesting his rivals had perhaps ridden simply to put someone else onto the top step of the final podium.
"Obviously those guys didn't want my teammates to come back and every time they were close they would keep attacking," he said. "In the end there were only so many attacks that I could cover myself but it might have been handy to have had a teammate or two on the Col and then in the valley. We learnt a lesson today but there's good signs for July that I'm climbing well and that teams want to gang up on me to put me out of the race.
"That's their strategy. I can't say that they were trying to win the race but trying to make me lose the race perhaps ... C'est la vie."
Porte denied having any second thoughts about his tactics on the day, which saw him chasing Aru and Valverde while others let Porte put in the work before launching themselves, forcing the BMC leader to work even harder.
"Aru has gone up the road and then no one else is going to ride. There's only so long that you can sit there and gamble for the race. I was there to try and win and I had to chase. It didn't quite work out but I think that I can hold my head high," Porte said. "I didn't crack under pressure and I did a good last climb. I think you've got to take some positives out of the negative style of racing."
The overall title would have undoubtedly been a major confidence booster for Porte, but even as the GC runner-up his consistent performance throughout the eight days of racing in France has improved his stock considerably ahead of the Tour. Despite the disappointment, Porte was keeping his eye on the ball and taking solace in what he has proved to himself and his rivals as the Tour looms.
"I think I'm in a good place come July," he said. "I had [sports director Fabio] Baldato giving me time checks so I was riding my own time trial in the last 25k to be honest. I would have loved to have won this race but so far this season everything has gone quite well. I thought that I had it at the bottom of the final climb but I can still take some heart out of today's race."