JESOLO, Italy (VN) — Richie Porte’s Giro d’Italia dream took what could have been the knockout blow Friday as the race sped toward its finish at the vacation resort near Venice.
Instead of sun, rain hammered the Giro’s cyclists and helped cause a crash at 3.3 kilometers remaining in the 147-kilometer stage. Many fell, but Porte and Alberto Contador caught the most attention.
Team Tinkoff-Saxo’s Contador lost 36 seconds and the leader’s pink jersey to Italian Fabio Aru (Astana). Porte took a much bigger hit. TV cameras showed him standing on the road for some time and slowly getting going on the bike of teammate Vasil Kiryienka.
He crossed the finish line 2:08 behind stage winner Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and slipped to 19th in the classification at 5:05 behind Aru.
At the bus, he looked at his white time trial bike that had been brought out for his warm down ahead of Saturday’s 59.4-kilometer stage. What he said next to the mechanic indicated that this Giro d’Italia might be another missed grand tour opportunity for the 30-year-old.
“I’m not doing any pedaling,” Porte said. “My knee’s f—ked.”
Porte came into the Giro, which began on May 9 in San Lorenzo al Mare, as the top favorite with Contador. In his lead-up, he placed second in the Tour Down Under, fourth in the Volta ao Algarve, and won Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino.
“I’ve done it all year this year, and I’m really enjoying it,” Porte said at the start. “This race is a big motivation for me. It’s my dream race.”
The Giro was Porte’s chance to win a grand tour after missing that opportunity in the 2014 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. He was unable to start the former and suffered a bad day in the Tour and never recovered.
The costly hold-up was the latest mishap for the friendly Australian. On the first day, his team lost 20 seconds to Contador’s in the opening time trial. He remained in the hunt and appeared ready to strike in the time trial or high mountains, but then suffered two blows: a 47-second loss due to a puncture and, because he received a wheel from a rival, a two-minute penalty.
Unlike the slowly sinking city of Venice across the bay from Jesolo, Porte’s Giro hopes went down quickly Friday. He and the team could now take aim at stages, starting with Saturday’s time trial, if Porte recovers enough.
“Let’s see if we are still going for the classification,” Sky sport director Dario Cioni said when asked about Porte gaining enough time on the race leaders in the time trial to pull himself back into the fight.
“Right now, we are going to try to win the stage and then decide. With the penalty and everything, the classification gap is big.”