Richie Porte will head home to his European base in Monaco to heal up after crashing out of the opening stage of Paris-Nice with Ineos Grenadiers announcing that X-rays and checks had confirmed that the Australian did not suffer any fractures in his lower back or pelvis area.
Porte crashed with 29km of the sprit stage left to race after a loose bidon caused chaos. Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-PremierTech) also went down but Porte was clearly in pain and was attended by the race doctor.
The Ineos Grenadiers team leader remounted in an attempt to continue to the stage finish in Saint-Cyr-L’École but quickly decided his injury was too bad to allow him to continue and abandoned the race in the final kilometres as Sam Bennett sprinted to victory.
The setback came on Porte's first day of racing in Europe for his new Ineos Grenadiers team.
“It’s exciting to be here with a new team and also good to be with a really young bunch of guys. It’s nice to be back in this set-up,” the Australian had told Cyclingnews just before the first stage got under way in Saint-Cyr-L’École.
During his warm-down following the stage, teammate Ben Swift said in an Ineos Grenadiers Twitter video that the scene had been "pretty chaotic" at the time of the incident.
"It was really, really chaotic from early out. It was next to impossible to move up. Every time you'd pull up a little bit, there'd be like a mini crash, you'd lose position," Ben Swift said about the situation on the road.
"So we were just waiting for the climb to move up. And then as we started to go, someone drops a bottle, George Bennett hit it, turned left into Richie, and then it just took Richie's front wheel out. I was right beside it. I didn't know if he'd get back up or not. We were just waiting, waiting for information, and they said he was out. It was pretty chaotic."
Porte spent four seasons with what was previously Team Sky before leaving to become team leader at BMC Racing initially and, more recently Trek-Segafredo.
Following his career-best third place finish in last September’s Tour de France, Porte spent most of the European winter at home in Tasmania. He had a short interlude at the four-day Santos Festival of Cycling in Adelaide, where he raced in Garmin Australia colours and won atop Willunga Hill for the seventh time.
Twice the winner of Paris-Nice when he was racing in Sky colours, in 2013 and 2015, Porte highlighted the specific demands of this event.
“It’s a hard race, probably one of the more mentally gruelling races of the year,” he explained.
The Australian was in the field last year when Paris-Nice ended one day prematurely as a result of the sudden spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Returning 12 months later, he believes there are reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for racing.
“The fact that we’re here and not having the discussion of whether the race is going to reach Nice, or issues around that is a positive sign,” he said.
“If you look at the UK, the vaccine is really doing its thing there, so it’s looking more optimistic. Let’s hope that 2021 can be a little more straightforward from that point of view.”
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