Mûr-de-Bretagne: Australian Tour de France hope Richie Porte had pencilled in Thursdays finishing climb of stage six, the Mûr de Bretagne, as a “good showdown” for overall contenders like himself.
“A good rider who is strong today will be strong in the final two weeks as well,” the 33-year-old Tasmanian added before the 181km stage from Brest to the top of the two kilometre climb got underway.
A little more than four hours later, Portes forecast rang loud and clear. He was one of eight top Tour contenders to gain some handy time that may prove vital come the Tour finish in Paris on July 29.
Joining Porte in those time gains was Irish stage winner Daniel Martin (UAE), Spaniards Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Movistar), Briton Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Welshman Geraint Thomas (Sky), Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), and Dane Jacob Fuglsang (Astana).
Martin won the stage by one second from Frenchman Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale) and 3s on a group of 13 riders that included Valverde (3rd) Yates (6th), Thomas (9th), Porte (11th), Quintana (13th), Nibali (14th) and Fuglsang (15th); as well as Portes Belgian teammate and overall race leader, Greg Van Avermaet (12th) who kept the yellow jersey.
However, behind them came four other major Tour contenders: British defending Tour champion Chris Froome (Sky) in 18th at 8s to Martin, Colombian Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac) in 19th at 11s, Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R) in 33rd at 31s and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) in 46th at 53s – the latter pair due to wheel damage from clashing wheels with each other in the last five kilometres.
Dumoulin was also handed a 20s penalty for using the
slipstream of his team car to try to catch the peloton.
After a tough day in the hills of Brittany, Van Avermaet remains in the yellow jersey, with Thomas in second at 3s and American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) third at 5s. Martin rose to 21st at 1m 27s with his win securing him a 10s bonus, while Porte was 11th but still at 53s. But dropping on overall time was Uran (7th), now at 45s to Van Avermaet, Froome (14th) at 1m 2s, Dumoulin (15th) at 1m 3s and Bardet (23rd) at 1m 45s.
The gains and losses may be minimal, except for Bardet and Dumoulin; but apart from showing form they can also carry added weight in the impact they can have on a riders morale.
“It was a nice one to tick off,” Porte said after the stage in which he tried to stretch his rivals by surging with 1.3km to go in the race.
Portes move with Thomas on his wheel prompted Martin, second on this stage in 2015, to attack on their left, and Yates to give chase; although Martins jump was to good for anyone to bridge across.
“Yesterday and today were pretty stressful days coming into [the finale], but we didnt lose time and put some time into some guys.
“I got stuck there a bit on the front, but once you are there you may as well stay there. I dont have that punch to sort of drop off and then come back so Gregs kept the jersey so its a good day for us.”
Porte also noted the overall positions of his two former Sky teammates, Froome and Thomas, and quipped: “It will be interesting with Sky to see if they back Geraint Thomas or Froomey.”
Van Avermaet, meanwhile, believes Porte is tracking well thus far. “Richie is going well,” the Olympic road champion said. “He can use me to ease the pressure off him. Sure, he gets the benefit sitting on my wheel and getting a little more freedom in the peloton.”
Despite Porte having lost 51 seconds in stage one, Van Avermaet said BMCs win in the stage three team time trial had strengthened the teams resolve to back Porte in his bid to podium, if not win the Tour.
“We lost some time on the first day,” he said. “But we saw on this climb today that he has good form. He should take confidence from that. After winning the team time trial, we are up for a good Tour.”
Most Viewed in Sport
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter