Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) almost saw his hopes of a top-five in the Tour de France ride away from him on stage 18 of the race due to a mechanical but after a frantic chase the Australian saved his fourth place overall with three days remaining.
Porte survived the final mountain stage of this year’s Tour and the final spread of Alpine climbs only to be undone by a front-wheel puncture on the treacherous gravel section atop the final climb of the Plateau des Glières with 30km to go. The Australian was forced to carry on without assistance for some time before a team car could eventually move up and provide a new bike but when the dust cleared Porte had a 45-second gap to the yellow jersey group.
To make matters worse, his main rivals for the top five, Mikel Landa and Enric Mas, pushed on at the front of the race in a bid to distance Porte and several other riders.
“It was a nice chase back. I didn’t know if I was going to make it but I guess I had to fight. The team has been awesome around me all week and it’s the least that I could do. I’m happy to come away with that one,” a relieved Porte said.
The 35-year-old made contact on the final unclassified climb before the finish in La Roche-sur-Foron thanks to assistance in the chase from Wout van Aert and Tom Dumoulin, after the two Jumbo-Visma riders had been distanced on the Plateau des Glières.
“At the end of the day Roglic was there with Kuss and a bit isolated too. That helped me a little bit and they [Van Aert and Dumoulin] helped me, which I really appreciate. It’s nice to have friends in the bunch and I’d do the same for them I guess if I ever could. It was a good day to get done and I think I’ve already done my time trial. That was so hard to come back.”
Porte admitted that even without the puncture and the long chase, he probably wouldn’t have attacked in the finale but he heads towards the mountain time trial with an outside chance of moving up into third overall in Paris. The Trek-Segafredo rider currently sits fourth overall, 1:39 behind Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana.
“It’s another day down and we’ll get through tomorrow and hopefully do a good time trial."
Even if Porte fails to move up in the overall standings, fourth place in Paris would represent his best ever result in a Grand Tour, eclipsing his fifth place in the 2016 Tour de France. It would also be a fitting way to end his career as a Grand Tour leader with an expected move to Ineos Grenadiers set to be announced after this race has finished. Porte has said that the next and likely final two years of his career would be spent riding for others as a super domestique.
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