Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) may have lost time in the battle for the yellow jersey during the “queen stage” of the Tour de France – stage 17 on Wednesday – but the Australian still managed to emerge victorious, in progressing two places in the general classification, from sixth to fourth.Porte, 35, finished fifth at the top finish of Col de la Loze, 1:01 behind stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), but he dropped a number of his main rivals in the GC to jump over the two Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Pro Cycling). On an extremely difficult day of racing, Porte had to keep pace with the main contenders and then run his own race when the final attacks came within 2 miles of the finish. He was well supported by his team throughout the stage, with notable performances from Mads Pedersen and Kenny Elissonde.
“To be honest there are some climbs in cycling, like the Zoncolan, that are absolutely brutal, but today with the final at altitude… I could barely pedal my bike, and at 500 meters to go I couldn’t get up, “Porte said. “Everyone has gone very far. It was a tough day, but I’m happy with the way it went. Tomorrow is another tough day, we’ll see how the legs come back up.“When I resumed this stage in July with [teammate] Bauke Mollema, we knew it would be the queen stage of the Tour. Going through and coming away in a better position than we started makes me happy.
“It was a fight, to be honest. It was every man for himself, ”he continued. “Sepp Kuss [Jumbo-Visma] was there for Primoz Roglic, but at the end of the day there was nothing really the teammates could do to help. I’m happy to move up to fourth place in the GC. ”
Porte is still a long way from the podium, sitting 1:39 behind Lopez in the overall standings, but the Australian can hope for his consistency so far in the race. If he hadn’t lost more than a minute in the cross winds of Stage 7, he would be even closer to Lopez’s current third place in the standings, and with another tough mountain day ahead on the ‘Stage 18, the Trek runner remains focused on the GC.
“Let’s see how it goes tomorrow and move on to Friday and then we hope to have a good time trial too,” he said, referring to the test on Saturday, when the penultimate stage of the Tour ends at the top of the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.