Aussie Focus

Porte defends lead on climbs and descents to claim Dauphine triumph

Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers) claimed the overall victory with a fighting performance on the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, containing a number of late dangerous attacks by himself after a hard pace in the mountains and a late crash for teammate Geraint Thomas left the Aussie star isolated.

73rd Critrium du Dauphin 2021 - Stage 8

Richie Porte of INEOS Grenadiers wins the 2021 Criterium du Dauphine Source: Getty

After two previous runner-up spots at the Critérium du Dauphiné, it was a sweet debut at the top of the final podium for Richie Porte as the Tasmanian successfully defended his overnight lead to seal his first Dauphiné victory.

The race went through the Haute-Savoie Alps to finish in Les Gets and Porte was always in a position of strength throughout the race, though that looked tenuous at times. 

A small drama in Cluses with 47 kilometres to go saw Porte forced to change bikes after a mechanical, chasing his way back on before the HC-rated climb of the Joux Plane.

The Col de Joux Plane loomed in the finale of the stage before a technical descent into Morzine and then a climb into the finish in Les Gets concluded the race. A breakaway was well up the road ahead of the climb, with INEOS Grenadiers biggest concern present in that move Patrick Konrad (BORA-Hansgrohe at three minutes and seven seconds disadvantage to Porte prior to the stage start. Stage 7 winner Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious) was also present in the early move and again made his climbing prowess clear with an attack from the base of the Joux Plane, immediately gaining a big lead.

From the peloton the contenders were a lot more dangerous, with nine riders starting the race within a minute of Porte's lead. There were numerous attacks on the Col de Joux Plane with Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) both launching attacks that were brought back, but it was a late surge from Australian Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) that led the way for the big names over the top of the climb leading the way down the technical descent.

Haig was caught in the furious descent off the Joux Plane, then Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) lost his front wheel on a hairpin and hit the road. He picked himself up quickly and continued but in the meantime it was left for Porte to fend for himself at the front of the exclusive group of GC men. Astana-Premier Tech duo Ion Izagirre and Lutsenko were the chief aggressors, with Lutsenko just 17 seconds behind Porte at the start of the day. A combination of Porte and his fellow GC riders protecting their own interests brought the Astana pair to heel as the final, easier climb to Les Gets was the last challenge of the day.

As Porte policed the group from the front, Thomas returned and moved to the front, that was the moment for Australian Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen) to attack clear, surging up and over the climb with a strong show of pace as Thomas moved to the front to set the tempo in the chase. 

Two minutes up the road, Mark Padun (Bahrain Victorious) rounded off a breakthrough weekend with his second stage win in two days, the 24-year-old Ukrainian also taking the mountain classification with his performance.

He was able to celebrate another big win in style, taking out the stage over Konrad and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), with O'Connor battling in ahead of the chasing group of favourites containing Porte with a 13-second advantage. Despite the impressive attack, it was insufficient to move the West Australian up the GC ranks as Stage 8 concluded the race with three Australians in the top ten overall with Richie Porte the overall winner of the race.

"This race, having been second here twice and once year losing second in the last kilometre, to finally win it I'm just over the moon," said Porte after the stage. "All the sacrifices, time away from my wife and two kids, is worth it. This team INEOS Grenadiers were just absolutely brilliant today.

"I know the descent of the Joux Plane well and we've done it many, many times, so decided to do it at my own pace. When I saw Geraint crash it wasn't ideal for the last six kilometres. He has some pretty bad road rash, but he'll be tip top for the Tour."

Porte paid tribute to the depth of his team, with two Grand Tour winners in Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart working for him to win the race, and Porte perhaps also getting a few extra turns from Australian compatriots at times.

"We had a couple of Australians there (in the final kilometres) and Jack (Haig) was always going to help me out and maybe Ben (O'Connor) helped me close the gap to those guys on the descent."

Despite the win, Porte still very much sees himself in the role of a domestique for his next race, the Tour de France, where he'll likely be racing alongside Thomas, Geoghegan Hart and 2019 Giro d'Italia winner Richard Carapaz. 

"I'm under no illusions," he added when asked about his hopes for the Tour. "I'm here to help out. I think that the way Tao [Geoghegan Hart] and Geraint and those guys helped me, I'd love to repay them. I don't need the stress and pressure [to lead at the Tour] – I don't know how they do it. For me, this feels like a Tour de France victory.

"But full credit to Geraint because coming into this race he said he was all in for me and come July I'll hopefully be returning the favour for him and help him to win the Tour."

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6 min read
Published 7 June 2021 at 8:36am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS