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Tour de France

Smooth ride sees Porte in reach of podium in farewell ‘GC’ Tour de France

Veteran Tasmanian is making the most of his last Tour as a protected leader.

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How good is this Tour de France going for Richie Porte? The Trek-Segafredo captain safely made it past stage nine, and no one even noticed.

The 35-year-old Tasmanian is enjoying his smoothest ride in a Tour de France in years, and he’s bubbling up in the GC as a result. Porte was right in the mix again Sunday with third on the top of Grand Colombier, and rolls into the Tour’s final rest day poised for a run at the final podium in Paris at sixth overall at 2:13 back.

“I am happy for today, and I am motivated for the last week of the Tour,” Porte said Sunday. “Now I am looking forward to the rest day and to recover a bit, and hopefully have a good last week of the Tour.”

This Tour is turning into a farewell race of sorts for Porte. Now 35, Porte will leave Trek-Segafredo at the conclusion of 2020, and finish his career as a superdomestique at a new team for 2021.

Porte is keen to enjoy what could be his last ride chasing wheels at the front of the peloton in the Tour de France.

“A top-10 would be nice,” Porte said before Saturday’s stage. “It would be a great way to end my Tour de France career. I’m excited for the next two seasons of my career, but I won’t be riding for myself again.”

A former triathlete, Porte emerged as one of the most highly talented GC riders over the past decade, riding at such teams as Team Sky and BMC Racing. As a GC captain, he delivered victories in such races as Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, the Santos Tour Down Under, and the Tour de Romandie.

After riding to a career-best fifth in the 2016 Tour, a string of bad luck and crashes stymied him each time when he seemed poised to capitalize on his promise. “Stage 9” became something of an albatross. In 2017 and again in 2018, Porte never made it past the seemingly cursed ninth stage, undercutting him during the prime of his grand tour career.

Porte never gave up, and enters the third week of what could be his final Tour de France in pole position for a run at a podium spot in Paris.

Following an impressive ride up the Puy Mary on Friday, Porte rode a smart race Sunday to ride the vapors of the Jumbo-Visma train, and then marked some wheels in the final crush to the line to finish third on the stage.

“It was nice to be able to sit on the wheels of Jumbo-Visma on the final climb and I felt pretty comfortable. The pace was pretty high and when [Adam] Yates attacked, they never really struggled,” Porte said.

“I knew from doing Tour de l’Ain, where I attacked with 2kms to go and not really knowing the finish, so today my plan was always to sit in as long as I could. When I got to 500m to go and [Primož] Roglič attacked and I had to go to the front and do my pace. I am never going to beat guys like Pogačar and Roglič on a finish like that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it was good to put time into some other GC guys.”

Porte dodged a bullet on the road into Lyon on Saturday when he needed to a bike change with teammate Kenny Elissonde late in the stage but was able to regain contact in the fast finish. Of course, no Tour is without its setbacks. Porte was among several GC riders who lost 1:21 in crosswinds in stage 7.

With the two Slovenians firmly atop the leaderboard, there are five riders separated only by 52 seconds between third and seventh places.

The final podium will come down to who has the legs in the final week of this very atypical edition of the Tour. A strong finish in this Tour would be a fitting finale for Porte’s grand tour career.