In the absence of Chris Froome, it was Richie Porte who carried the leadership of Team Sky troops as the Tour de France peloton hit the first mountain slopes in the Vosges region. The 29-year-old Tasmanian didn't disappoint during the stage 8 from Tomblaine to Gérardmer, as he limited his deficit to top favourites Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to a handful of seconds on the first mountain top finish, moving up from seventh to third in the general classification, at 1:58 down on Nibali.
After the finish, Porte took on a jacket and headed straight to the team bus to find some cover from the rain that had soaked the riders during the last hour of racing. After warming down on the bike for a few minutes he headed over to the gathered media to answer a limited amount of questions.
"I'm happy with how it went. It's not really my bread and butter that short sharp stuff. I'm happy enough with how it was. I think it puts me in quite a good position. I'm a little bit behind on those guys on that stuff but maybe in the longer climbs I'm going to be a little bit better," Porte said.
During Saturday's medium mountain stage, the Tinkoff-Saxo team took the initiative on the three climbs that featured in the final twenty kilometres, setting a blistering pace. Several riders with GC ambitions conceded a severe time loss but Porte stood tall.
"That's the sort of riding that Sky usually does. I guess that they were good today. It's a little bit hard for Astana, they have had the jersey for about a week now. We'll just see how the next couple of days are. It's certainly nice for me to have this opportunity. I'm happy with how I was today and how I finished."
Porte was not surprised by the drama of the first week in the Tour de France, pointing that crashes, high speeds and a nervous peloton are par for the course. He paid tribute to the support of his teammates and was bullish about his prospects in the days to come.
"It's the first week of the Tour. Even today wasn't straightforward with that massive storm there. The team were absolutely brilliant. Bernard Eisel put me in a top position."
Sunday’s ninth stage leads the peloton from Gérardmer to Mulhouse, featuring six climbs, although the summit of the final ascent, the Grand Ballon, is some 43 kilometres from the finish in Mulhouse.
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