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Richie Porte saw his hopes of winning the 2014 Tour de France evaporate on stage 13 of the race, with the Team Sky leader cracking on the final climb of Chamrousse and rolling in a shattered 27th on the stage.
The Australian got into difficulty with over 12 kilometres remaining on the tough Hors Categorie climb. He had said prior to the stage that he believed it would suit his characteristics but, unfortunately for his Tour campaign, that proved not to be the case.
He was listed on the Tour’s medical communiqué as having suffered from stomach trouble during the stage, but didn’t refer to that when giving his reaction at the Team Sky bus.
“I don’t think I dealt with the heat really well,” he stated, shortly after completing his cool down on one of the trainers set up outside the bus. “It’s one of those things. It’s a massive shame but we’ll just see what happens tomorrow.”
Porte rolled in 8 minutes 48 seconds back and slipped to 16th overall, 11 minutes 11 seconds back. He will doubtlessly try to fight back but it seems inconceivable that he can claw back enough time to reach the final podium.
“It is a shame. I feel more for my team-mates who have been brilliant for me every day,” he said. “You know, if it happens to me, it can happen to other guys too. We’ll just keep on pushing.”
Team principal Dave Brailsford downplayed suggestions by a French TV reporter that Porte had to shoulder too much pressure after Chris Froome’s withdrawal. He said that wasn’t a factor, but conceded that stage 13 proved to be an unlucky one for the squad.
“It is not one of our best [days], is it?,” he said. “I think to be fair, it was a difficult day. But we will keep on fighting. We have put in terrific performances the past couple of years in the Tour de France and we would like to continue that again.
“Now and again in sport you get a blow. Today is one of those. We will come back and keep racing until the end of in Paris. It was hot today and that was one of the challenges. We will keep battling on.”
The team has had a difficult season due to crashes and illnesses for riders. Froome hit the deck in the Critérium du Dauphiné and lost what seemed to be a good chance of winning overall. Porte struggled with injury and illness early on, while other riders also had difficult periods.
The Tour has also proved frustrating. Froome withdrew due to injuries suffered on stages four and five. Xabier Zandio was also forced out after a crash, and now stage 13 has been another blow.
Brailsford tried to remain philosophical about the situation. “I don’t think it is a nightmare. I think it is a hard sport, and everybody knows there are times when you win and times when you lose,” he stated.
“I think overall if you take a step back, we have won quite a lot. We have performed well.
“It is difficult when it doesn’t go to plan. But it can’t always got to plan. That is part of sport. You have to win with dignity and when it doesn’t go that way, I think you have to keep professional and keep on fighting.”
The team will have another chance tomorrow on the category one finish at Risoul. Porte will hope to bounce back there; while the podium looks extremely distant, a place in the top ten or possibly higher could be achievable if stage 13 was simply an isolated bad day.
Otherwise, he will save energy and hope for something better in the Pyrenees or perhaps the penultimate day time trial.