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Porte proved himself one of the best climbers in the Tour de France pack on the savage slopes of the Puy Mary on Friday’s 13th stage, and with mountains stacked high in the final week of the race, the 35-year-old is hoping to continue his steady climb up the GC ladder. However, he’ll be doing so without his Duch co-captain Bauke Mollema, who crashed midway through Friday’s stage and abandoned after fracturing his wrist.
“It is very bittersweet but hopefully the next two days are hard stages, so I hope that we can keep chipping away at the GC game,” Porte said Friday.
Porte finished as the first rider in the bunch behind GC leaders Primoz Roglič and Tadej Pogačar after the Slovenian pair broke away together in the final kilometer of the race Friday, backing up his ever-improving climbing form in the past week. Porte’s Puy Mary performance saw him move up two places on GC to ninth overall, now 2:06 back on Roglič.
“The two Slovenians are the strongest guys in the race, so finish just behind them is a good result and to put some time into some of the other guys in the top-10 felt good,” Porte said.
“It’s was quite a short climb and it was really only the last two kilometers that were really hard, so you know that the time gaps are never going to be huge. Sunday on the Grand Colombier – that’s where the time gaps are going to be big, so hopefully I get through Saturday.
Sunday’s stage with its hors categorie summit finish atop the 17.4-kilometer Grand Colombier could see major gains and losses on the GC. With less than 40 seconds separating Porte from next best-riders Miguel Angel Lopez, Adam Yates and Mikel Landa, the Australian’s consistent and confident climbing chops could see him find a slot in the midst of the top-1o should any of his rivals have a bad day.
“Richie was not able to follow everything properly, but what we saw was very promising,” Trek-Segafreo director Steven de Jongh told NOS on Friday. “He lost little time on Roglič and Pogačar and takes time back on other men.”
Though Mollema started Friday’s stage in 13th overall and was likely not a factor in the GC battle, the experienced Dutchman would have provided Porte a valuable ally in the mountains. The crash that caused him to abandon also led to Ag2r-La Mondiale captain Romain Bardet’s eventual withdrawal from the race, and left Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samcsic) bruised and beat up.
“It is a very big loss,” de Jongh said about Mollema. “Besides Richie Porte, Bauke was one of our leaders, they were a beautiful duo in the mountains. Then if one of them falls out, that sucks. If Bauke says he’s good, you can always count on him. That’s why this is a real shame.”