The 31-year-old BMC rider was perfectly poised five kilometres from the finish line, holding second wheel in the charging bunch that was working to bring back a sole escapee, when he suffered a rear wheel puncture.
The race situation meant team cars were distanced and Porte was temporarily short of teammates, with some off the back after earlier leading the peloton and others still driving at the front.
The scene was a flashback to the first nail in the coffin of Porte’s 2015 Giro d’Italia campaign, where he was docked two minutes for an illegal wheel change. That pill was so bitter that the 31-year-old readily recalled it outside his new team BMC bus after the stage.
“It’s kind of like last year in the Giro – minus the two-minute penalty – but it probably would have been quicker to take the two-minute penalty than the wheel change that I got,” Porte said.
“I had [Marcus Burghardt] come back but we were going that fast there is not much that you can do in terms of the bike change. It all just happened so quickly that by the time Burghardt got back to me the bunch was gone.”
"Porte transferred from Sky to BMC this season for a title shot at the Tour de France. He is co-leading alongside teammate Tejay van Garderen, but it looks like the American may now be the sole leader."
Van Garderen finished the lumpy 183km second stage in the front group behind stage winner and new yellow jersey holder Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). Van Garderen sits 14 seconds behind the world champion along with defending race champion Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo). An embattled Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), following another crash, is one minute and two seconds down.
"It's a disaster"
Porte said he “supposed” his yellow jersey bid was now over.
“It’s a disaster. I don’t know what really you can do - just move on I suppose,” Porte said. “Obviously Tejay has not lost any time on the main GC guys but we’ll take it day by day.
“The Tour is far from over. It’s quite a hard one to take but at the end of the day I guess we just pretend like it never happened and wait for the mountains to come. Maybe in the third week if we keep it altogether I might be able to go after a stage too.”
Porte's despondent mood was a contrast to that of BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz, who insisted the climber’s quest was still alive.
Ochowicz said there would be no need to speak with his marquee recruit in the evening, adding the dual-prong maillot jaune plan with Porte and van Garderen remained the same.
“This is a long race," said Ochowicz. "1:45 can be made up in one good day so we’re not panicking. I’m glad he lost a 1:45 with a flat versus a crash. He’s healthy, he’s in good shape and he’ll certainly come back from this at some point in the race.
“This is not a big discussion; this is bike racing.”
Ochowicz didn’t blame neutral service for the wheel change that came at an inopportune moment in the race.
“The cars were way back at that point … so he had to get neutral support, which is great, we’re glad they’re there but it’s not the same. We might do it a little faster, or different, and trying to come back from that at the speed they were going, nobody is giving any leeway.”