When Richie Porte, pre-race favourite and the man most likely to end Chris Froome’s bid for a fourth Tour de France title, crashed out on Sunday’s stage, our hopes too were left by the roadside.
You can count the Australians who have worn the yellow jersey on both hands and still have fingers left over; they number just seven. It’s more than many others, the USA, Denmark. One less than the UK. But the Australian contingent whatever their role in their respective teams captures our imaginations again and again and we’re left with little choice but to be sleep deprived for most of July. It’s been this way for decades. To be competitive is in our nature.
It’s been two years since Rohan Dennis pulled on cycling’s famous prize. It was 2015 and our first and only general classification winner Cadel Evans would bid his farewell to the Tour. Porte was in his final year at Sky, faithful lieutenant to Froome and eager to put his own stamp on the grand boucle.
The Tasmanian’s fifth place in 2016 confirmed our thoughts and as this current season played out, from the Tour Down Under in January to the Dauphine, we’ve ridden the whole way, reading his form, predicting great things.
For now, it’s not to be and instead, we wish Porte the best in recovery. The Tour continues and so will our virtual journey through France, hearts and minds focused on the six Australians resuming their battle on Tuesday.
It won’t be about yellow this year. Instead, we look to green. Michael Matthews gallant fight against German Marcel Kittel promises plenty of excitement, the guy known as Bling chasing after every stray point on offer.
It’s a battle we know well. Robbie McEwen reigned supreme three times, defeated by just two points by fellow Australian Baden Cooke in 2003.
Winning isn’t everything, and not all of the remaining Australians will get the chance. And yet, we’ll watch. The Tour, for sports-mad Australians, is an anomaly in this sense. It’s about the story, the romance and quirks that occasionally leave us scratching our heads. There are the towns, countryside and vistas a world away from our lounge rooms.
The fighting spirit required to get through each day inspires and keeps us coming back, year after year. We’ll run the full gamut of emotions with the riders. The toughness required by the peloton mirrored by the need to stay awake and front up to work for three weeks.
We will miss Richie. But we resume our spots on the couch, or on the home trainer, waiting to rejoin the peloton. There is nowhere we’d rather be.