Never seen anything like what you saw Wednesday at the Giro? Anthony Tan isn’t so sure.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

The earthquake that ravaged the Abruzzo capital of L'Aquila 13 months ago appeared to reverberate through the Giro d'Italia peloton Wednesday, turning the race on its head.

In an epic scene of sadism, with biting cold weather and rain hitting riders' faces like tiny spears throughout the 256 kilometre, six-and-a-half-hour-long 11th stage, the 93rd edition of cycling's most impassioned event has discovered a new leader and a most unlikely hero in Saxo Bank's Richie Porte.

Twelve days from the finish in Verona, just when the final general classification appeared to be taking shape and pre-race favourites Carlos Sastre and Bradley Wiggins looked down and out, out comes a bolt from the blue.

Eurosport television commentator David Harmon said he couldn't recall anything like what he saw Wednesday.

But I do.

It was the eighth stage of the 2001 Tour de France when a 14-man escape was allowed to get away on an apocalyptic day not at all dissimilar to Stage 11 of the 2010 Giro.

A grievous mistake by the favourites' teams not to chase and perseverance through adversity allowed the break to gain a massive 36-minute advantage by the day's end.

And guess who donned the maillot jaune? Stuart O'Grady!

In terms of GC, the biggest dangers in that move were the now-departed Kazakh Andrei Kivilev and Frenchman Pascal Simon, who would eventually arrive in Paris fourth and sixth overall behind Lance Armstrong, earning his third of seven consecutive Tour scalps. O'Grady would finish 54th.

But had Kivilev and Simon resisted a little more or had stronger teams, it may have been a different story.

Wednesday's situation is also reminiscent of the 2002 Giro, the first time Cadel Evans rode a Grand Tour, supposed to act as lieutenant to Stefano Garzelli but almost ended a champion on debut.

Once again in Porte, we have a young Aussie making his Grand Tour debut at the Giro, who ostensibly went into the race for experience. Yet if he's lucky and his form continues, come May 30 in Verona, the boyish-looking 25-year-old could finish on the podium.

Compared to Cadel's 2002 Giro, Porte has a stronger team to help him achieve his best, whatever that may be. And because of this, if his form does hold in what is a brutal final week, the exuberance of youth may benefit rather than impinge him.

But like Cadel's debut Giro, Porte, who only started racing his bike four years ago after a career as a triathlete, will find himself under fire from all and sundry.

The Spaniard who sits second overall, David Arroyo, has already finished 10th (in 2007) and 11th (2009) at the Giro; Sastre's lieutenant and fourth overall, Xavier Tondo, has showed he can match it with the big boys; Russian Alexander Efimkin is a class rider; and of course, Sastre and Wiggins were in the break Wednesday.

For the big-name riders who didn't make the move – namely Evans, Alexandre Vinokourov, Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso – rest assured they will raise their weapons sooner rather than later.

I expect that to begin this Sunday, en route to the mountain-top finish of Monte Zoncolan.

My advice? Don't think, just ride. Ride, Richie, ride!