7.18.2014

Tour de France 13: Underdog

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Richie Porte gets dropped
He wasn't supposed to be riding the Tour and for sure not in the lead of Team Sky. As well as Chris Froome, he had had a troubled season: retired from Tirreno-Adriatico, didn't start in the Giro d'Italia. In the Tour de France he started as Chris Froome last men. Then the team leader's crash and Richie Porte as Plann B. 
This morning he was 2nd in the General Classification and said: "Bring on the mountains! I'm looking forward!" He had responded very well to the unespected call and I think that the Plann B was planned. Prudent in the rain, well supported on the pavé by a great Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte didn't look confortable in the first hot day uphill: slightly dropped, he had come back at the finish without panicing. 
He was already the underdog. Vincenzo Nibali is too strong... Hard to support him, hard to get excited in spite he's a good, nice, friendly guy. Hard to support Alejandro Valverde, still dragging a shameful past. Too far the rest: Bauke Mollema, Frank Schleck... Even Romain Bardet couldn't really do. But Richie Porte was ok. A real fighter for the final victory, a brave trying to change Team Sky's disaster in a personal and collective fortune. 
He doesn't look different from the young rider I met years ago when he was still riding for Bjarne Riis' Team Saxo Bank. He used to like a good chat and a good joke. As Ambicious but more consistent than Jakob Fuglsang, he was at that time a good friend of Andy Schleck. Of course he has grown up since that, as a man and as rider. He has grown up at Team Sky, in a different discipline, in a different concept of the group. Aware of his qualities but also realist about his possibilities, Richie Porte had accepted his role but never given up on his goals. 
On the first Alpin stage of this Tour the heat was hiting hard. Since the start. Merciless. Riders were fainting on their bikes, tarmac was melting and the road was climbing. The group was climbing too, at a crazy speed. No break-away could really stick. De Marchi was the last one left, collecting points for the Polka Jersey in a stage where the most of them were atop and trying to win a stage that was the obvious target of the gc riders. Red Number for him but once again the empty hands.
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Vincenzo Nibali goes solo
Vincenzo Nibali attacked only to respond. Valverde was expected to try and so did. The difference was stunning. "Today it was hot" Nibali said "like it uses to be in Messina. But without the sea wind." Another shark attack. Another victory, this time in Yellow Jersey: "It's beautiful to win in Yellow, isn't it?". Oh yes, it is. Not a smile this time on his face. All were suffering behind, his team included: Westra dropped, Scarponi dropped, Fuglsand crashed - on Van Den Broeck's bottle - and Kangert just able to give the last painful push. French riders showed again nice things today. Bardet and Pinot especially. Frank Schleck was good, Bauke Mollema gained a place in GC. Nobody could even keep the wheel of the race leader and Richie Porte just disapeared. Paced by Nieve and Thomas he crossed the line almost 9' after the first. 
Embedded image permalinkThinking of what? seeing what, or anything on his way? probably no. Then you read what he said and he's still there, ready to bite... the underdog: "We'll see what happens tomorrow". He didn't give up on his big chance in spite today Paris looks very far, or maybe too close.
Richie Porte:
“I don’t think I dealt with the heat very well. It’s one of those things. It’s a massive shame but we’ll see what happens tomorrow. I feel more for my team-mates who have been brilliant for me every day. If it happens to me it can happen to other guys too. We’ll just keep on pushing.”
Dave Brailsford:
"It was a difficult day but we’ll keep on fighting. We’ve had some terrific performances in the last couple of years at the Tour de France. We’d have liked to see that happen again but every now and again in sport you get dealt a tough blow. Today is one of those for us but we’ll come back and keep on racing to the end in Paris."

RESULTS
STAGE

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 5:12:29
2 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:10
3 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:00:11
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:50
5 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:00:53
6 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:01:23
7 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:01:36
9 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:09
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing
11 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing
12 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
13 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling
14 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:03:01
15 Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre - Merida
16 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:03:07
17 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre - Merida 0:03:11
18 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:02
19 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:04:12
20 Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne - Seche Environnement 0:05:55
21 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha
GC
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 56:44:03
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:37
3 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:24
4 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:04:40
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:05:19
6 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:06
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:06:17
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:06:27
9 Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre - Merida 0:08:35
10 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura 0:08:36
11 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:08:51
12 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:09:18
13 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:09:48
14 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:10:10
15 Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre - Merida 0:10:44
16 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:11:11
17 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:14:00
18 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:14:05
19 Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:14:51
20 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:16:27
POINTS JERSEY
Peter Sagan
POLKA
Vincenzo Nibali
WHITE
Romain Bardet
TEAM
AG2R

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