Richie Porte (BMC) continued his march up the general classification with an assured performance on stage 17 of the Tour de France. Porte has been involved in a game of catch up ever since the first week after a mechanical problem set him back.
The Australian has looked among the strongest in the mountains as he's chipped away at the deficit ever since. His only hiccup since that bit of misfortune was a disappointing time trial, but he has been able to put that behind him. When he launched his move within the final two kilometres, it looked like Porte had even the yellow jersey in trouble. Froome was eventually able to follow him to the line, although he gained time on all of his other rivals and moved up another place into sixth overall.
"It was a good day. I really want to be on the podium, so these are the moves you have to pull," Porte said as he warmed down in front of the picturesque views that surround the Emosson Dam. "I spoke with the directors this morning, and they said to me 'just use your head, if you feel like it, attack him [Chris Froome]'. I have to anyhow, the tempo was not so fast and it was a good time to get a gap like that. They chased hard, so that was a good sign.
"I felt strong today, and I'm happy with how it all went. It's different for me, being on BMC and riding for myself. It's a bit different from the role I had before. I'm enjoying it, taking it day by day. The team put confidence in me, and I am happy with how today went, but there are three hard days before Paris. I'll take it day by day."
With three days left to decide the general classification, Porte is only 1:34 off Adam Yates' third spot on the podium – after gaining eight seconds on him today. Even second place is within reach with Bauke Mollema just two minutes ahead of the Australian after suffering on the final climb to Emosson.
Porte will be looking to tomorrow's uphill time trial as an opportunity to make up much of that deficit. That should have been the case in last week's race against the clock, but the effects of a collision with a motorbike on Mont Ventoux and the high winds contributed to him shedding time. A week later, the winds are gone, and the climb should play into his hands.
"We looked at it a month ago or so and it's a hard time trial, it's got a bit of flat at the start, uphill and a bit of downhill to the finish. I think, also being in the third week it's going to be tougher," Porte told Cyclingnews. "It's not something that I've done a hell of a lot of but I think it's a good day for me, and I hope to capitalise on it.
"Even looking at the time trial the other day, I was second on the uphill part of the time trial. It was just coming into the crosswinds I was blowing around like a sail on my bike. I think it's just going to be a hard day and that is all there is to it."
Porte showed last month what he could do in an uphill time trial at the Criterium du Dauphine with second behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). At 17 kilometres, this is much longer than the effort in Les Gets and poses its own challenges when it comes to what exactly you ride on it. Porte likens it to the time trial course at Paris-Nice, one that he has claimed victory on twice in recent years.
"I think that's the big debate if you ride your time trial bike or your road bike with clip on aero bars. I guess you'll see some guys riding their TT bike," explained Porte. "It will be interesting to see who does what. For me, I think that it is a road bike with clip-on bars. I guess it's almost like a Col d'Eze kind of a time trial, a little bit longer, a bit downhill and flat. It's a tricky one I think but at the end of the day I think that it's going to be the legs which decide."
There will still be two very tough days in the Alps after the stage 18 time trial, but Porte told Cyclingnews that this would not factor into his thinking, and he and his rivals will be going all our from here to the finish line on the Champs-Elysees.
"I don't think anybody is going to hold anything back. I think that the next step to Paris is going to be an all-out war."
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