A dropped chain hampered Trek-Segafredo leader Richie Porte's efforts to be among the select climbers racing for the stage 6 victory at the Tour of California in the last kilometre of the summit finish on Mt. Baldy on Friday. The Australian was forced to settle for fourth place but said that he was pleased to have been part of the final mix.
"The mechanical in the last kilometres was obviously ill-timed, but I don't know if I could have won today," Porte said. "Regardless of that mechanical and the result of today, it was nice to be back at the front of a bike race again."
The penultimate stage of the Tour of California was a 127.5km race from Ontario to the summit of Mt. Baldy, but it arrived after a challenging week of racing, covering almost 21,000 metres of elevation gain and where more than half of the stages were over 200km.
Porte formed part of the select group that included stage winner Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma). Trek-Segafredo had several riders helping Porte into the final kilometres to bring back a late attack from Max Schachmann (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Overnight leader Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) fell off the pace part way up the climb.
"The guys did an amazing job today, and the whole week, actually," Porte said. "Today we made the race hard, and it's just great what the guys did to back me, especially after my last races where things didn't go as I wanted them to. It feels really good to be back in the game."
Speaking with *Cycingnews ahead of stage 2's race to South Lake Tahoe, Porte said that he wasn't sure how his body would react to the altitude or the climbs during the week, but that he would use the seven-day race as a test of form as part of is preparations for the Tour de France.
"It was a test for that – to see exactly where I'm at, because there is no hiding on these kinds of stages," said Porte, who placed 15th at Lake Tahoe. "It would have been nice to have more results coming into this race, but it is what it is, and I have to just deal with it and see how it goes this week."
Porte was second at the Tour Down Under and fifth at the Herald Sun Tour before competing at the UAE Tour. However, until this week's Tour of California, he hadn't competed since the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya due to bronchitis.
"It started well with the Tour Down Under, but it hasn't been an easy path because of illness and changing programmes, and all that. There is not a lot to talk about, other than those things," Porte told *Cyclingnews.
"Normally, I'd do the Tour de Romandie and races around there, but it's been nice to change my programme and have the opportunity to come to the Tour of California. It's about doing something different, and that's been great. It's also nice to get out of Europe for a bit and do something different."
The Tour of California finishes on Saturday with stage 7, which starts in Santa Clarita and travels over the Angeles Forest Highway summit before dropping down into the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.
"It's been a great and hard week, and my shape has even got better since I got here," Porte said. "Of course, it would have been nice to be a little better in the GC, but hey, the race isn't over yet. I'm sure tomorrow will be still a hard day."