• Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo fights back after a late puncture on Stage 18 of the Tour de France (Getty)Source: Getty
Australian cycling fans were kept on the edge of their seat after Richie Porte suffered an inopportune puncture during the gravel section after the major climb of Stage 18.
SBS Cycling Central

18 Sep 2020 - 4:10 AM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2020 - 8:18 PM

With 30 kilometres remaining in the race and the major climb of the Col des Glieres just crested, Porte was put on the back foot by a puncture that saw him struggle to control his bike on the gravel and lose touch with the group containing the main contenders for the general classification.

Porte got a bike change from his team car, and then had the task of fighting back to the main group and overcoming a 45-second deficit in the run to the finish.

Porte managed to claw his way back towards the group of the leaders, who were being led by Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) who had the most to gain on the general classification from Porte losing time. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain McLaren) dropped back to help Landa drive the pace, but with some help from Tom Dumoulin and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) Porte was able to return to the yellow jersey group with 10 kilometres left to race.

Porte finished on the same time as his main rivals and will head into the time trial with the goal of unseating Lopez from his third position on the general classification and finishing on the podium in Paris.

Porte was asked after the race if relief was the main emotion that he felt after avoiding any time loss.

“100 per cent,” said Porte. “To get a puncture like that, of course it’s going to happen to me. But it was a nice chase back and I didn’t really think I was going to make it. I guess I had to fight. The team’s been awesome around me all week. It’s the least I could do.”

Porte’s front puncture resulted in a bike change for the Australian climber, with his Trek-Segafredo on the scene to help.

“I got a bike change, it was quicker,” said Porte. “We were supposed to have a mechanic half way I don’t know where he was but he was after the gravel, which I don’t really understand. In the end of the day, it was faster to get a bike anyway.”

“All’s well that ends well.

Porte got some help from Jumbo-Visma as Dumoulin and van Aert attempted to return to be of use in the defence of Primož Roglič’s (Jumbo-Visma) yellow jersey.

“At the end of the day Roglič was there with Kuss and a little bit isolated to,” said Porte. “They helped me a little there to get back, which I appreciate.

“It’s nice to have friends in the bunch and I’d do the same for them if I can. It was a good day to get done, I feel like I’ve already done my time trial. It was so hard to come back.”

The main climb of the day, the Col des Glieres say some small surges from the top climbers, but it ended up being more one of attrition than the scene of any big attacks from the top riders. Porte was asked if he had any intention of attacking on the climb.

“Not really,” said Porte, “they (Jumbo-Visma) had numbers there and it was such a hard climb. It’s another day down, get through tomorrow then hopefully do a good time-trial.”

The 2020 Tour de France continues with the 166km Stage 19 from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole that could decide the green jersey. Watch on SBS HD and SBS On Demand from 9:30pm AEST and the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker from 9:20pm AEST.