• Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo salutes the crowd ahead of Stage 14 of the Tour de France (Getty)Source: Getty
It's been a long time since the 2016 incarnation of Richie Porte with BMC produced his best-ever performance in a Grand Tour, a fifth on the general classification that could have been so much better with the same support that he received last night in an almost identical situation.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

13 Sep 2020 - 9:06 AM 

On Stage 2 of the Tour de France, a 183-kilometre stage from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg, Porte and his BMC team were on the front of the peloton. They were driving the pace for Greg van Avermaet, with the hope that he could win on a punchy finish, when Porte blew out his rear wheel with just over five kilometres remaining.

He quickly got on the radio, but none of his team dropped back to help, committed to riding for van Avermaet in the finish, and perhaps thinking that Tejay van Garderen was their real GC leader. 

However, the race situation meant team cars were barraged behind dropped riders and Porte was left standing by the side of the road for neutral service to give him what turned out to be a slow change. Porte lost a minute and 59 seconds on the stage, adding insult to injury the fact that van Avermaet didn't feature at the finish, ending up eighth behind the winner Peter Sagan (then with Tinkoff).

'It's far from a huge disaster' - Porte, Ewan caught out in crosswind chaos
The only two Australians at the 2020 Tour de France suffered terribly in the crosswinds during the chaotic seventh stage.
Porte dubs puncture a 'disaster'
Richie Porte’s maiden maillot jaune campaign took a crippling hit on day two of the Tour de France with the Tasmanian now almost two minutes down overall due to an untimely mechanical.

Porte said, back in 2016 to Sophie Smith, that 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.”

In terms of the ultimate general classification, that time loss would have changed Porte's fifth overall that year to second, on the podium in Paris.

The immediate despondent attitude was a far cry from the Porte that shrugged off a one minute and 21-second loss in crosswinds on Stage 7 this year (he actually said that was 'far from a disaster'), and a completely different outcome when nearly exactly the same incident as 2016 happened in last night's stage. 

Porte hit a big pothole on a descent with 8.5 kilometres remaining, had a double puncture, but immediately teammate Kenny Elissonde was there on the scene, giving Porte his conveniently small-sized bike and getting the Aussie back in the race. Porte managed to regain contact with the peloton with six kilometres left and lost no time on the stage.

This time there was planning with a team that clearly valued Porte and his GC bid.

"So I had a double puncture," said Porte. "But Kim Andersen (Trek-Segafredo's directeur-sportif) had said the roads probably weren't the best in the final, so we knew Kenny was to always be close by."

"Luckily as soon as it happened, Kenny was close by and I was able to jump back on and eventually come back to the bunch."

Porte remains in GC battle after 'close shave' in Stage 14
Trek-Segafredo managed to pull off a bike swap in the final ten kilometres of Stage 14 to ensure Australian Richie Porte finished with the peloton and maintained his assault on the yellow jersey.

It's very different outcome to 2016 and perhaps a different Porte. Then, the Tasmanian was the second-best climber in the race behind Chris Froome, but finished fifth because of the avoidable time loss. Now, he's looked like the third-best climber behind the two Slovenians at the head of the race... will that convert into a podium appearance? 

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) is young and has been expending a lot of energy, and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and his bid for overall glory was questioned by Porte's old buddy Chris Froome as to whether he'd be able to hold his form over the whole Tour.

Drawing a very long bow, I know. But without those two, Porte is a minute and seven seconds behind Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) in third. Climbing better than everyone else at the moment, is that insurmountable over a very hard final week? Less likely things have happened. 

The 2020 Tour de France continues with Stage 15 where you can expect yellow jersey fireworks as we head 174kms from Lyon to the Grand Colombier. Watch the race on the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker from 8:15pm AEST and on SBS HD / SBS On Demand from 8:30pm AEST.