Richie Porte (BMC Racing) put in his best performance since the Tour Down Under to finish third in the mountain time trial at the Tour de Romandie. The Australian finished behind stage winner Egan Bernal (Team Sky) and race leader Primoz Roglic (LottoNL Jumbo) and climbed to third overall as a result. But while Porte was leading the race at the 4.4km time check, with around 2,000m to go on the 9.9km climb, he began to crack. Despite the late wobble, the 2017 Tour de Romandie champion is back on course for a podium on Sunday – a much-needed result after two months of illness and resulting poor form.
"I felt good until about 2km to go and then I exploded but I was happy to finish off how I did. All of us are extra motivated with the passing of team owner Andy Rihs last week. It's nice to come to his backyard and have a good ride. I'm happy," Porte said at the line.
The Australian was on his way to the proverbial hot seat when first Bernal and then Roglic nudged him down to third but Porte was pleased with his effort. On Thursday he told Cyclingnews that he needed to use the time trial in order to lay down a marker ahead of the Tour de France. Although there is still plenty of ground still to make up, Porte has certainly shown signs of improvement.
"It was a strong ride but normally I don't think that I would have blown up as badly as I did with 2km to go. The team has been great and we're motivated to finish off the race well," he said.
Before making his way down the climb from Villars, Porte added that his enforced time on the sidelines due to illness could prove to be a blessing in disguise, as he looks to peak his form for July. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but the Australian is at least moving in the right direction.
"It's nice to do well at Tour Down Under and normally it's the early part of the season when I'm going the strongest. To get sick like I did and scrub some form off maybe isn't such a bad thing for July."
Sports director Fabio Baldato admitted that Porte still had time to improve, but the Italian was pleased with his rider's effort.
"I actually thought that the stage win was in the pocket for Richie today especially when he set the fastest time at the intermediate checkpoint. At the end, he told us that he was really on the limit in the final two kilometres so maybe that's where he lost some time to the other two guys. However, we are happy with his performance and it is good to see that the Richie we know is back. We know there is still some work to do ahead of July but this is a really good sign and will give him a lot of motivation for his next goals."
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