The contortions on Richie Porte’s face that finally settled into a grimace during the final climb on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia were a clear indication of just how deep the Australian is digging in his last Grand Tour to help Ineos Grenadiers leader Richard Carapaz walk away with the maglia rosa.
“That’s my role,” Porte said matter of factly, after a comment from the assembled media on how much he gave as the last man standing for Carapaz on the stage to Lavarone.
“We all believe in Richard, you know he is a great leader so I think that makes it easier to go all in for him. He is super calm, off the bike he is as professional as anybody I have ever seen and he wants this, probably more than anybody else. So it is great to have him around and morale is good within the team and hopefully the next few days we can finish the job off for him.”
There are four stage of the Giro d’Italia left and, if all runs to plan for Ineos Grenadiers, four days of defending the maglia rosa in a battle that can often be measured in minutes by this stage of the race, but is currently counted in seconds.
Last time Carapaz won the Giro, in 2019, after stage 17 he was 1:54 ahead of nearest rival, Vincenzo Nibali. This time there are four riders within that time, firstly Jai HIndley (Bora-Hansgrohe) at just 3 seconds back, then Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) at 1:05 and João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) at 1:54.
“I haven’t really seen that in a Grand Tour on the last week, everyone so close,” said Porte. “It’s good for TV I guess but we have still got some hard days to come. A little bit of a reprieve tomorrow for me, but who knows what is going to happen on a stage like tomorrow.”
Thursday appears on paper to be a sprinters stage, with a flat 156km from Borgo Valsugana to Treviso but afterwards it is two mountain stages, with a 14km climb of the formidable Passo Fedaia to conclude stage 20 before the final test of the Verona time trial.
Even with the significant shadow cast by Saturday’s summit finish on the Passo Fedaia, via the Passo Pordoi – the highest point of the race – there is no sense that it will be a waiting game for the overall contenders till then. For a start, Friday’s 178km stage 19 includes the twisting Kolovrat climb, with a five-kilometre sector with a gradient of 10.4%.
“For sure that is a super hard climb and technical downhill, but even tomorrow you just never know what is going to happen in the Giro,” said Porte knowingly, having faced everything from three days in the maglia rosa at his 2010 Grand Tour debut to an ill-timed puncture, and controversial time penalty, followed by what was ultimately a race-ending crash in 2015.
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Simone is a degree-qualified journalist that has accumulated decades of wide-ranging experience while working across a variety of leading media organisations. She joined Cyclingnews as a Production Editor at the start of the 2021 season and has now moved into the role of Australia Editor. Previously she worked as a freelance writer, Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg. Cycling was initially purely a leisure pursuit for Simone, who started out as a business journalist, but in 2015 her career focus also shifted to the sport.