Richie Porte was forced to fight back from adversity on stage 14 of the Tour de France to keep his hopes of a podium finish alive.
- Primoz Roglic maintained his 57 second lead over fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar with two stages of the Tour de France remaining
- Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz took the polka-dot jersey from Pogacar on the final mountain stage before allowing teammate Michal Kwiatkowski to take the stage win
- Australia’s Richie Porte battled desperately to rejoin the race leaders after a puncture saw him lose significant time
The Australian was riding in the pack chasing the breakaway of Polish stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski and his Ineos teammate Richard Carapaz of Ecuador when potential disaster hit.
As the group were riding through gravel roads between green meadows, Porte suffered a front tyre puncture that saw him drop off the pack with 27 kilometres to the stage finish.
As he battled with a wheel that wouldn’t turn properly it took more than 30 seconds for the team car to reach the Australian rider and get him a new bike.
While that was happening race leaders Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar and Miguel Angel Lopez pushed on, dropping the Australian to around 45 seconds behind.
Porte though was not to be denied and worked hard, riding strongly out of turns on steep descents to eventually catch back up the the group with 9 kilometres left on the stage.
It was a tremendous recovery for the Australian from his second puncture of the race and he even managed to finish the stage in sixth place to stay in fourth place in the general classification.
Pogacar said he did not know Porte had received a puncture on the gravel.
“I didn’t know Richie Porte had a puncture,” the 21-year-old said.
Porte remains over three minutes behind leader Roglic, but crucially is only 1’39” behind stage 17 winner Lopez.
And while the Colombian rider is renowned for his skills in the mountains, only a flat stage 19 leg and a final time trial, which could see Porte pull back a lot of time, remain in the race.
That means the race for the yellow jersey is likely down to just two — the Slovenian pair of Roglic and Pogacar but with a 57 second-lead Roglic will be hard to unseat.
Roglic was adamant the time trial would sort out the final results.
“The time trial will decide all the rankings, but tomorrow is another day to be focused because it’s far from a flat stage,” Roglic said.
Pogacar loses hope and polka-dots
It was in many ways a tough day for Pogacar.
The 21-year-old began the day chasing the yellow jersey, while simultaneously leading the young rider and King of the Mountain categories — at the end of it he has only the lead in the young rider classification.
“I tried on the last climb, but it was not possible to drop my rivals,” Pogacar said.
“I’m not really close to the yellow jersey, if Primoz has a super bad day, I may stand a chance but I just hope to have a good day and secure my place on the GC.”
Teammates deliver heart-warming stage finish
Pogacar lost the polka-dot jersey to Carapaz on the final day in the mountains as the Ecuadorian allowed long-time team rider Kwiatowski to take the stage as the two who broke away together finished together, arm-in-arm, just with Kwiatkowski’s tyre ahead.
“I’ve got some nice moments in cycling but that was a new experience,” Kwiatkowski said.
“I got goosebumps for the last, I don’t know how many kilometres, because I knew the gap was so big.”
Kwiatkowski also revealed it was Carapaz —who was caught late on stage 17 when he went out on his own searching for victory — that gave him the stage win.
“We are going to celebrate big time tonight because we all deserve it after so many stages.”