• Richie Porte will need greater team support for the Tour de France. (Getty)Source: Getty
Short, final stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné have a way of throwing the cat amongst the pigeons as Richie Porte found out.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

12 Jun 2017 - 1:28 PM 

Porte (BMC) was on the back foot for almost the entirety of the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and while he didn't end up in the yellow jersey on top of Plateau de Solaison, he will have lost none of his fans after a phenomenally strong performance.

In, 2014 a 131.5 km stage tipped the general classification on its head. The expected duel between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome (Sky) didn't eventuate as the rest of the big climbers went away on earlier ascents. A struggling Froome could barely keep up with his team and Alberto Contador's Tinkoff squad evaporated early on, leaving the Spaniard isolated.

Similar to Porte he forged on alone to ultimately finish second overall behind Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) and gaining a lot of praise for his tenacious riding against the odds.

There were also shades of Cadel Evans on Stage 18 of the Tour de France in 2011, dragging the rest of the group behind him from the base of the Galibier to limit the gap to an escaped Andy Schleck. He didn't win the Tour de France that day, but he saved it to be won in the penultimate day's time trial. 

Porte didn't have the luxury of a race against the clock to take back yellow, but with his own memorable feat, he proved himself the strongest climber in the world and a favourite for the Tour de France.

Isolated from early on in the race, multiple attacks went and were countered by Porte and he was forced to ride his own race even before the cameras brought us the pictures of the unfolding drama.

Fuglsang denies Porte to win the Critérium du Dauphiné
Jakob Fuglsang won the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and topped the general classification by 10 bonus seconds over Richie Porte.

The former triathlete couldn't wait for his team-mates to catch up and help with his overall lead under threat from riders up the road and he couldn't ask Froome for help.

Indeed when Froome attacked, Porte couldn't go with his long-time friend, if he had caught him, Froome simply would have gone back to sitting on his wheel and Porte would have just wasted energy.

So he sat, tapping out a painful threshold effort to limit his losses to a group of ten of the strongest riders in the world. Incredibly, he regained some time in the valley, out-dueling former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, who used himself up just to get his team leader Froome to the early slopes of the final climb. 

As Froome increased the tempo at the front on the Plateau de Solaison it looked like becoming a Froome vs Porte battle for the overall victory of the Dauphiné, with the added bonus of the victor having the mental edge going into the Tour de France.

On that count, Porte not just won, but obliterated Froome.

From over a minute up on the Australian with a team-mate on hand, Froome faded and Porte, riding a consistent, grinding tempo, passed him on the run-in to the line. Froome tried for a moment to latch on to Porte's slipstream but was completely spent from his effort.

Sure, Porte didn't end up on the top step of the podium, Jakob Fuglsang and Astana rode a smart race and he was a deserved winner, but the Tasmanian couldn't have had a better audition for July.

Porte disappointed to miss Dauphine title
Richie Porte has fallen just short of winning the Criterium du Dauphine but his Tour de France preparations remain on track.

One weakness was glaringly exposed, and it's an area where Porte and BMC will have to spend a lot of time thinking about.

The team composition for the Tour de France squad has to do better in the service of their Australian star come the Tour de France. Quite simply, the lack of team support at critical junctures is the reason Porte lost the Dauphiné and the same could happen again at the Tour.

Nicholas Roche and Ben Hermans were useful in earlier stages of the race and both will no doubt be on the squad. Brent Bookwalter has a very good climbing pedigree in American races and Alessandro De Marchi is brilliant on his day, but both were absent when the race got really hard in the mountains. 

The Tour de Suisse squad has Rohan Dennis and Greg van Avermaet both of whom are assured starts when the French Grand Tour begins in Dusseldorf. Stefan Küng, Daniel Oss and Martin Elmiger are also on the Suisse roster and will be very good workhorses for Porte in the intermediate stages and flatlands.

What was lacking from the Dauphiné showing was that specialist climber that can be the man to last up the front when the pace is put on by the likes of Movistar and Team Sky early. Can Dennis play that role? 

He was absolutely flying at the Suisse prologue and his withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia, though personally devastating, was arguably good news for Porte's tilt at the Tour. 

Dennis will be a lot fresher come the third week of the Tour de France when the riders tackle those difficult climbs like the Mont du Chat, the Galibier and the Col d'Izoard. 

Dennis out of the Giro
Australian Rohan Dennis has succumbed to the after effects of a Stage 3 crash to abandon the 2017 Giro d'Italia.

Dennis is a superb athlete and has proved that he can turn his hand to almost anything in the past... next on the agenda is becoming a Grand Tour rider and on the road to that goal is performing as a super domestique for Porte at the Tour.

Judging by BMC's performance on Stage 8 at the Dauphine, Porte needs Dennis to fill a void for him at the Tour and he may be critical to the chances of seeing Australia's best chance at a Tour title since Cadel Evans riding in yellow on the Champs-Élysées.