Stage 8 of the Tour de France may have ended in a stalemate between the yellow jersey contenders, but the ruthlessly quick stage was nonetheless significant for Richie Porte and his BMC Racing teammates.
The Swiss sponsored, American backed team helped animate the first stage in the Jura with Greg Van Avermaet and Nicolas Roche posted into the early break, while Porte tried as best he could to save his legs for Sunday's mammoth stage to Chambery.
In the end, the team came up short with Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) picking up his maiden Tour stage. Roche took fourth, with Van Avermaet fading on the final climb. Porte finished safely in the main field to retain his fifth place overall, 39 seconds down on Chris Froome (Team Sky).
The stage result only told part of the story on a tense, rather than dramatic day.
"That was pretty full on all day. It was tricky all day," Porte said, fronting up to reporters before his warm-down.
"In the final there, everything evened out but we'll feel that in the legs for sure," he added, looking ahead with one eye on stage 9.
In every press conference, in every interview, Porte is asked about Team Sky. It's part of the territory for a man looking to end their domination at the Tour, but it comes into focus even more because he spent four successful seasons on the British team. On stage 8, and for the first time in this year's race, Team Sky were put to work at the front of the peloton as they looked to nullify the break that consisted of Pierre Latour (AG2R) and Roche – both of whom started the day close enough to yellow to warrant attention.
Having put his own squad to work on stage 5, Porte was asked, in general terms, whether it was good to see Team Sky take control of the race.
"They chased pretty hard behind but it didn't quite work out," Porte said.
"The stronger guys were in the break, but when you get a big group like that they don't really work that well together. It was good to see them pull on the front but it wasn't nice to see Geraint Thomas crash. I think that was his fifth crash this race. He's okay, which is nice, and I hope that there are some tired legs among them tomorrow.
"They had the jersey, so they had to work. It's not rocket science."
Team Sky also had the jersey on stage 5, but it was BMC who controlled the pace in a bid to take time on Froome.
"But that was going for the stage," Porte added, although on that occasion it was Froome who came away with four seconds more on the Australian.
Stage 9 will provide Porte with further terrain to test the race leader and the rest of his rivals. The Australian was arguably the strongest rider at the Dauphine, and with titles in the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie he is enjoying the best season of his career. Directeur sportif, Fabio Baldato believes that his team leader is on the same level as he was in June and can even improve.
"It's a long three weeks and we need to recover well and recover for tomorrow. He's still good and I think he can be even better," Baldato said.
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