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by Caley Fretz
September 12, 2020
Richie Porte could end up on the Tour de France podium.
I’m reticent to even write that, because Porte perpetually feels like he’s one ineffectual Neville Longbottom of a jinx away from catastrophe, but write it I did.
Did you see him today? Not hanging in there, not dangling, but at the forefront of the anti-Slovenian resistance, pulling his way back up toward Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar on the final climb to Puy Mary. He looked good. Strong. Hex-resistant.
At the finish of stage 13, Porte is in his best GC position at this point in the race since 2016. Last year, he was in 15th after stage 13, clawing his way back from a crash. In 2018, he DNFd on stage 9. In 2017, he DNFd on stage 9. In 2015, he was already 44 minutes back by now.
After Friday’s stage, he is 9th, just 2’06” down. If I were him, I’d be avoiding the number 9 entirely, but some things can’t be avoided. Ahead of him are a pile of riders he’ll beat in the final TT – Quintana, Lopez, Yates, maybe even Bernal. He’s playing it smart. When I was searching for a photo for this story, I found him in the back of many GC group shots but not in the front of any.
Porte’s had a bad run of it, no doubt. It’s been a decade spent teetering on the precipice of Grand Tour greatness, always capable but never able to execute, often through no fault of his own. Now, he’s unhurt. He’s riding well. There’s a time trial at the end of the race that suits him perfectly. He hasn’t looked troubled.
At 35, normally we’d have a pretty clear idea how a Grand Tour contender handles a tough final week of racing, but Porte’s Grand Tour story is so riddled with difficulty that, in his case, we really don’t. He has only finished in the top 10 of two Grand Tours – the Tour in 2016, and his first Giro, in 2010. One points to a strong last-week showing, the other the opposite.
In 2016, he was 8th after the stage 13 time trial, and clawed up to 5th with good rides into Finhaut Emosson (stage 17) and the stage 18 time trial into Megève. That Tour route had quite a few similarities to this year’s edition, with a pile of Alpine stages and a TT packed into the last week.
In 2010, riding for Saxo Bank, Porte finished 7’22” back on Ivan Basso. He was 3rd after the stage 16 time trial but slipped on a nasty stage 20 from Bormio to Ponte di Legno. Not a great sign, but it was ten years ago and his first Giro.
A tough week remains. Porte looks as good, or better, than he ever has at this point in a three-week race. And this may be his last shot – he’s leaving Trek-Segafredo at the end of the season and will reportedly ride as a super domestique elsewhere next year.
The podium is possible. Just, please, everyone tap some wood after reading this.