• Richie Porte is out of the Tour de France after a crash on Stage 9. (Getty)Source: Getty
As Richie Porte crashed on Stage 9 of the Tour de France, Australia reacted with a complex mix of shock, sadness and concern. The Tasmanian who had been the beacon of hope for a nation lay prostrate on the side of the road as the Tour de France rode away from him.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

10 Jul 2017 - 2:54 AM  UPDATED 10 Jul 2017 - 7:15 AM

Emotions were already high. The race was on up the super-steep Mont du Chat, previous Tour favourites were already dropped and there was controversy raging between Fabio Aru (Astana) and Chris Froome (Team Sky).

The tension was far from abating as attention turned to the descent. Everyone who watched the stage of the Criterium du Dauphine knew what a hair-raising the downhill portion would be, so much so that the road had clearly been re-laid, changed from the pot-holed tarmac we saw a month ago.

“Crash! And Porte is down, so too is Dan Martin. Richie Porte is on the deck and Dan Martin is with him.”

Tour de Carnage: Porte crashes out, Uran wins the stage
Australia's Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France on the descent of the Mont du Chat. Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) was declared the winner over Warren Barguil (Sunweb) in Chambery after commissaires again had to consult the photo.

The words of commentator Matt Keenan will be burned into the memory of many Australian cycling fans for years. The anointed local hero for the yellow jersey had crashed out on the slopes of Mont du Chat. The emotions that follow are all my own in one sense but have been echoed on Twitter by the Tweets of many.

Adrenalin. It’s far from the same feeling as an athlete competing on the field but as soon as you see the great Aussie hope down on the ground, the mind goes into overdrive.

Where’s his bike? Down the mountain, ok, where’s the team car? Can he get a spare…(with dawning realisation)... oh no, he’s staying down.

That sort of hollow feeling you get when your normal emotional responses have just given up trying to make sense of what’s going on. 

He’s clearly not ok, please be alright. Talking and slight movements are good signs for his health, but you know his Tour de France is over. No one gets up from that.

Fear and sorrow. Fear for his health and sorrow at the realisation that no, this year won't be the one where we see Richie achieve his dream of standing atop the podium in Paris.

In my line of work, I know many cyclists. How much they sacrifice, how extreme they have to live and operate to get to peak physical condition and maintain it through a race. Porte takes that to a whole new level, his training regime before the Tour de France was masochistic with climbing kilometres ridden at altitude. One stretch included over 54,000 metres of vertical gain in three weeks, all part of the preparation for the big race.

Porte's broken bones a big blow to BMC
Richie Porte has abandoned the Tour de France leaving his devastated team to wonder what may have been.

He is also one of the prime physical specimens of the peloton, riders look enviously at a body without a spare ounce of body fat, a product of his dedication to the constant deprivations of diet and training.

And now all that work, all the pain, the sacrifice, the commitment of team, staff, family and friends have been undone by a split second on the descent to Chambery. What makes it even crueler is that it has happened before. Crashes and incidents outside his control have ruined his biggest opportunities in the past.

It's a cruel, violent, sadistic sport at times and cycling has provided another moment of heartbreak. It's far from what most of us watch the racing for, but it does remind us of the stakes. A winner one day is just as likely to be the big loser the next. It's part of the narrative of sport but rarely is shown as harshly as in professional cycling.

The good news is that we know he can bounce back from nearly anything. Disappointment, physical injury, the weight of expectation.

The thoughts of Australia, both the cycling community and sporting public are with Richie Porte in his recovery.

His story isn't over yet.