FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Richie Porte (BMC Racing) is back on top just in time for another shot at winning the Tour de France.
Fittingly so, three weeks before the Tour starts in Vendée, he is wearing yellow in the Tour de Suisse. The Australian took the overall race leader’s jersey Wednesday after attacks by rivals, including Mikel Landa (Movistar) at Leukerbad.
Porte is looking for redemption in the Tour after 2017, when in the form of his life he crashed on the Mont du Chat descent. The injuries he sustained in that stage 9 crash — a fractured collarbone and pelvis — forced him out of the race and left him looking for new opportunities in 2018.
“I’m getting older,” Porte said. “This is one of the last big opportunities to have one of the best Tours as possible.” [related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”left” tag=”Tour-de-France”]
The 33-year-old will lead a powerful BMC Racing team at the upcoming Tour, with Tejay van Garderen and Greg Van Avermaet serving as his main helpers. The names still must be confirmed, however, as the American-registered WorldTour team has yet to announce its official eight-man roster.
Porte began the 2017 Tour as a favorite to topple Chris Froome, who ultimately went on to win his fourth Tour title. The Tasmanian had won the Santos Tour Down Under to begin his season and ahead of the Tour, he challenged for the Critérium du Dauphiné overall victory with a win in the time trial. The Mont du Chat descent ruined his run.
The 2018 season looks just as promising, however. Porte began the year by winning the queen stage at Willunga Hill and taking second overall in the Tour Down Under. After falling sick in February and March, which caused him to miss Tirreno-Adriatico, he bounced back well. The pieces — Tour stage previews, altitude camps, and now yellow in Switzerland — are falling into place.
“The yellow jersey? It’s a nice reward for me. This is a well respected event and of course I’m riding for a Swiss team too,” said Porte, alluding to the Switzerland-based BMC company.
“The yellow jersey in the Tour de France is the big dream. And heading there, I’ve shown my form is where it needs to be.”
Porte’s form allowed him to handle Landa’s attack at the Tour de Suisse and manage rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar), along with Team Sunweb’s Wilco Kelderman and Sam Oomen — who now sit second and third overall.
One more summit finish remains, a 28-kilometer climb to Arosa at the end of Friday’s stage 7 that will take the riders 1,740 meters above sea level. And in Porte’s favor with the Tour de Suisse overall in mind, a 34km time trial in Bellinzona ends the race Sunday.
The result would be another springboard for the Tour de France. Porte learned under Alberto Contador, Bradley Wiggins, and Froome, and he’s been looking for his chance to become a Tour champion. A fifth-place result in 2016 and solid lead-ups in both 2017 and 2018 show he has a chance.
Sunday is also an important deadline for BMC Racing. According to a VeloNews source, general manager Jim Ochowicz gave himself and the riders that cutoff date for finding a new financial backer to continue the team into 2019.
Porte would ideally want to say with BMC Racing, but without a guarantee of its future, he could start answering phone calls from teams like Astana and Bahrain-Merida.