Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) comes out of the first rest day at the Tour de France sitting pretty in 11th place on the general classification, but the situation could have been substantially better if the Australian and his co-leader Bauke Mollema hadn’t been distanced on the crosswind that battered stage 7 to Lavaur. Both riders have more than held their own in the mountains in this year’s race, although they have not quite been on the same level as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), and Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers). The Trek-Segafredo duo are pushing for top 10 places, with Porte currently 1:53 off Roglič's lead and Mollema two places further down at 2:31.
Porte was unable to match the very best when they began to fight it out for bonus seconds on the Col de Marie Blanque during stage 9, but he clawed his way back to a group of GC contenders during the long descent to the finish in Laruns.
“Other than the crosswinds stage it’s all been pretty good, smooth sailing really,” Porte told a small gathering of journalists via Zoom on Monday.
“In the Pyrenees stages I was there or thereabouts. On stage 9 it would have been nice to have crested the top of the Col de Marie Blanque with the other guys, but it wasn’t to be. It’s not the best place to be in after the first rest day but it’s not the worst either," Porte said. "Once they started to go for bonus seconds at the top I couldn’t match the accelerations. Other than that I was pretty comfortable on the climb. I rode at my own pace, but they started to change the speed with Pogačar attacking and I think that it’s just one of those things that’s harder to deal with because of age.”
The stage to Lavaur, however, exposed a level of weakness within the Trek-Segafredo line-up. Half the team missed the early split when Bora-hansgrohe put the hammer down, and then when the wind picked up both Mollema and Porte were caught out near the back of the group. They both lost 1:12 on GC during a stage in which their team should have offered up complete protection.
Porte admitted that words were exchanged in the team debriefing that evening and that the same mistake wouldn’t be made again ahead of stage 10, when once more crosswinds are expected to play a part.
"At the end of the day, we had a good team meeting afterwards about what went wrong and it’s us riders on the bikes, and you can’t always rely on the directeurs to know exactly how the wind is. It doesn’t really matter what was said, we should have been there," said Porte. "It wasn’t 10 specialists from QuickStep that made the echelons. It was two roundabouts and it was strung out. That’s where it all went wrong. We definitely had a good robust team meeting afterwards and we’re all going to be on the same page now.”
Porte and Mollema both have the experience to re-enter the top-10 over the coming stages as the Tour de France becomes increasingly difficult before moving into the Alps in week three. For Porte the third week will be the most decisive in the race. However, stage 10 to Île de Ré Saint-Martin-de-Ré will once again test Trek-Segafredo’s mettle in the crosswinds.
“That last week is so difficult and that GC race definitely isn’t over and done with. I think we need to get through the next two days as well as possible," added Porte.
"We were caught out in the crosswind day. We didn’t have Mads [Pedersen] and Edward Theuns up the front so hopefully in the next two days with those guys being there, we should have a few more strong capable guys there to help. We’ve seen the final 40km for stage 10 and there will be some wind somewhere. Small roads, it’s technical with road furniture everywhere, so it’s going to be a crucial stage to get through.”
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