Australian News

Tour de France team Arkea-Samsic investigated over potential doping offences

Two people are in custody as part of an investigation into suspected doping by the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France.

The investigation was opened a day after the conclusion of the three-week, 3,482.2 km race.

Sports newspaper L’Equipe said law enforcement officers from a special public health unit led a search on Wednesday in Meribel, where the 17th “Queen” stage of this year’s race finished on Wednesday.

The French press on Monday quoted a Marseille prosecutor, Dominique Laurens, who said the search had uncovered “numerous health products including medicine in personal belongings … and above all a method that could be qualified as doping”.

Laurens said in a statement the probe was targeting a “small part of the team” over allegations of “the administration and prescription without medical justification of a substance or a method prohibited during a sporting event, and helping and encouraging the use of that substance or method”.

The penalty for this offence in France is five years in prison and a 75,000 Euro fine.

Nairo Quintana waves to the crowd wearing a red and black mask
Team leader Nairo Quintana finished more than an hour behind race winner Tadej Pogacar.(Pool via AP: Christophe Petit-Tesson)

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) told Reuters in a statement that it “welcomes and supports the action of all authorities involved in this operation”.

The UCI said it will take “necessary measures once it has reviewed the elements obtained by the French judicial authorities”.

Arkea-Samsic had a relatively disappointing Tour, with its best-placed rider, Frenchman Warren Barguil, finishing in 14th place, 31 minutes and 4 seconds behind race winner Tadej Pogacar.

Arkea-Samsic team leader, 30-year-old Colombian Nairo Quintana, a two-time Grand Tour winner and twice-runner up at the Tour de France, finished in 17th place, more than an hour in arrears.

Tasmanian Richie Porte finished in third place, becoming the second Australian to finish on the Tour de France podium.

The last rider of note to be removed from the Tour for a failed doping test was Frank Schleck in 2012.


Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte’s hometown celebrates Tour de France podium finish

After Frank Nott watched Australian cyclist Richie Porte claim third place in the Tour de France, he called other people who’d taught the 35-year-old at the Hagley Farm Primary School in Tasmania’s north.

“They’re delighted to think that little bloke that we knew has come and done so well for himself and for the state and Australia,” he said.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal. I think the sky’s the limit. I think they’ll always remember Richie Porte.”

Porte secured his first podium finish in the famous race with a scorching time trial that leapfrogged him from fourth to third place.

Mr Nott taught Porte when he was in grade five and coached him in primary-school sports teams.

He remembers a small boy with the tenacity to use the Poatina Road, which winds up into Tasmania’s Central Highlands and defeats most ordinary riders, as a training ground.

“I think those training rides up Poatina stood him in very good stead for when he was dropped off the peloton with a puncture and chased them and got back on,” he said.

“No doubt he had a very big motor and a big heart.”

Richie Porte riding his bike up a hill with a photographer behind on a motorcycle.
Richie Porte pushes through the pain on the Tour.(Supplied: Bas Tietema)

Mr Nott has kept in touch with Porte over the years. He said he hadn’t changed much since his school days.

“No doubt some of his tenacity and his grit and performance have come from those early days of daily fitness at Hagley Farm Primary School.”

A field with Richie Porte cut into the crop.
One farmer was such a fan of Porte, he created this maze at Rupertswood Farm in northern Tasmania in 2018.(Supplied: Rupertswood Farm)

Mr Nott has no doubt Porte’s achievement will inspire others in the small rural community.

“To be only the second Australian to be on the [Tour de France] podium is absolutely fantastic.”

“I’m absolutely proud and thrilled with it.”

Locals thrilled with hometown hero’s achievement

Porte returns often to his hometown of Hadspen, off the Bass Highway that runs between Launceston and Devonport.

Local supermarket owner Graeme Radley first met Porte about 15 years ago when he was a lifeguard at the local swimming pool.

A man in an IGA jacket stands outside the shop.
Graeme Radley has been friends with Porte for many years.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

He said Porte would frequently join him for bike rides while he visited his parents over Christmas.

“He’s given a lot back to his family and friends, and he’s got a lot of time, and he’s never lost where he’s come from.”

Mr Radley said the whole community was excited about the local “superstar”.

“He used to live just down the road and he’s put Hadspen on the map.”

Podium finish pinnacle of ‘marvellous’ cycling career

Porte has had to call on the tenacity and grit his hometown friends remember during his cycling career.

He started his career on a bike after competing in triathlons.

“He went into the professional cycling ranks very late by traditional standards — he was 25 when he got his first professional contract,” said fellow cyclist and Olympic gold medal winner Scott McGrory.

Cyclist Richie Porte sits on a giant thumb holding his own thumb up.
Richie Porte takes a break during a ride at home in Tasmania.(Instagram: Richie Porte)

“He was a long way behind in terms of the skills you need to be competitive at that highest level and it took him a long time to acquire those.”

Mr McGrory said Porte had been chasing a podium finish in the Tour de France for his whole career.

“It’s taken him a long time, but I think this is some kind of vindication for Richie to say, ‘Hey I was good enough, I am good enough and [I] finally cracked it, a podium in Paris.'”

“He’s had a great career, a marvellous cycling career, and it’s been topped off by finishing third at the Tour this year.”

Source link

Australian News

Tadej Pogacar claims first Tour de France title, Australian Richie Porte in third

Tadej Pogacar has become the first Slovenian to win the Tour de France after completing the processional 21st stage unscathed, a day after he pulled off a major coup to take the overall lead.

While Irishman Sam Bennett won the final stage on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, the day belonged to Team UAE Emirates rider Pogacar, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Monday and is the youngest man to win the race since Henri Cornet in 1904.

Pogacar, who claimed the yellow jersey from a stunned Primoz Roglic with a monumental performance in Saturday’s time trial, also won the white jersey for the best young rider and the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.

Roglic ended up second, 59 seconds behind, with Australian Richie Porte taking third place, 3:30 off the pace.

Pogacar also won three stages in one of the most brilliant individual performances in recent Tour history, leaving Roglic’s dominant Jumbo-Visma team wondering what went wrong.

“We didn’t see it coming,” said Roglic’s team mate and former Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin.


Bennett became the first Irishman since Sean Kelly in 1989 to win the green jersey for the points classification, ahead of Peter Sagan who was looking to claim it for a record-extending eighth time.

Bennett was the strongest at the end of the 122-km ride from Mantes-la Jolie in Paris’ outer suburbs on Sunday, finishing a bike length ahead of world champion Mads Pedersen, with Sagan coming home third.

Ineos-Grenadiers had a Tour to forget as defending champion Egan Bernal dropped out of contention in the Jura stage to the Grand Colombier, pulling out a few days later with back pains.

They recovered some pride later on, however, as Michal Kwiatkowski, their unsung hero for five years, claimed an emotional stage win — although that was certainly not enough for a team who had won seven of the previous eight editions.

It was an anti-climatic finale on the Champs-Elysees as only 5,000 fans were allowed on the famous avenue as a precaution against the coronavirus.

A man sitting on a bike with a mask saying No to Racism
Australia’s Richie Porte wore a face mask reading “No To Racism” during the final stage of the Tour de France.(AP: Marco Bertorello)

France reported 13,498 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the previous 24 hours on Saturday, setting another record in daily additional infections since the start of the epidemic.

Reaching the Champs-Elysees was however a relief for organisers, who had imposed strict sanitary rules to protect the race “bubble”.

The bubble did not burst as only four team staff members tested positive and were removed from the race, preventing a spread that could have stopped the Tour.

No rider tested positive.


Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte’s landmark Tour de France moment arrives late, but just in time

Regardless of his performance at this year’s Tour de France, Richie Porte was going to go down as one of the greats of Australian cycling.

The Tasmanian has been competing with the world’s best for more than a decade and was part of a Tour de France dynasty as recently as 2015.

He has two overall wins at the Tour Down Under, in 2017 and 2020, and has won its premier stage every year from 2014 to 2019.

But as Porte (and every other cyclist in the world) knows, Willunga Hill is not the Pyrenees — not by way of geography, elevation or, most importantly, prestige.

“It doesn’t matter what races you have won, the Tour’s the one you are judged on,” he said after locking up third place at this year’s Tour de France.

Three men standing on a podium
Richie Porte’s (right) previous best result at Le Tour came in 2016, when he finished fifth.(AP: Thibault Camus)

A few years ago it seemed time was the only thing between Porte and him getting in the frame of that photo, but as the years went by, it became painfully clear nothing was certain.

An over-qualified back-up

Richie Porte rides ahead of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome.
He may be leading teammates Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome here, but Porte was behind them in the pecking order at Sky.(REUTERS: Eric Gaillard)

Porte was marked as a star of the future after finishing seventh at his first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia, in 2010 and winning the race’s young rider classification as a 25-year-old.

Consistently impressive performances at smaller races saw him picked up by new British team Sky Procycling, which ruled the cycling world for the next half-decade.

During his time with Sky from 2012 to 2015, the team boasted three Tour de France champions — Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas — as well as sprint superstar Mark Cavendish.

Those massive names helped the team become the juggernaut that won eight of nine Tour de France titles from 2012 to 2019, but in a pond that big, even a big fish can get lost.

Wiggins and Froome were on the first two steps of the podium in Paris, as Porte finished 35th overall. The next year, Froome powered to the first of his four yellow jerseys, with Porte the team’s next-best finisher in 19th.

He was what was called a “super domestique” — a title that acknowledges a rider is good enough to compete at the top of the pile, but their job for now is to support their team’s biggest gun (i.e. Porte was Scottie Pippen to Froome’s Michael Jordan).

So, when Froome crashed out on stage five of the 2014 Tour, Sky redirected efforts to make Porte, who had become the first Aussie to win the famed Paris-Nice the previous year, the team leader.

Unfortunately, 2014 was the worst possible year for the Australian to be asked to lead the team.

Richie Porte of Australia after his crash.
Porte had a couple of unlucky breaks with illness and injury.(Reuters: Benoit Tessier)

Illness had forced him to pull out of a series of races through Europe, including the Giro d’Italia, to start the year and he was not in peak physical condition heading into France.

Despite this, he was in the top five after the first high-mountain finish on stage 10, but it all fell apart when he lost over eight minutes to eventual champion Vincenzo Nibali in stifling heat during stage 13.

Porte eventually finished 23rd overall and was diagnosed with pneumonia later in the year.

He left Sky to try to forge his own path after helping Froome pull on another yellow jersey in 2015, and unlike many other super domestiques, he said he left with no ill will towards the team or the people employed by them.

He even married one of them.

Proving he’s good enough to lead

Richie Porte raises his arms with a trophy and flowers after winning a cycling race.
Porte proved himself a capable leader after breaking out on his own.(AP: Jean-Christophe Bott)

After being a key cog in a winning machine, Porte’s next move was to try and win the Tour with BMC, just as countryman Cadel Evans did in 2011.

The career progression looked on track as he was in the mix at a series of big races to start 2016, and despite being kept at bay by Sky as Froome won for a third time in 2016, Porte’s fifth-placed finish suggested he was one of the next in line.

But it’s never that simple in cycling.

Victories at the Tour Down Under (2017), Tour de Romandie (2017) and Tour de Suisse (2018) and pre-race favouritism counted for little as his next two trips to France yielded DNFs thanks to nasty crashes, one of which left him with a broken collarbone and hip.

Richie Porte breaks away in Tour de France 2017 third stage
Porte entered the 2017 Tour de France as one of the pre-race favourites.(AP: Lionel Bonaventure)

Having proven his ability as a team leader with BMC, he left and joined another American outfit, Trek-Segafredo, for the 2019 season.

But, like Alberto Contador surging ahead after Andy Schleck’s chain fell off at the 2010 Tour, time waits for no man and Porte was a few days shy of his 34th birthday when he signed with Trek.

Only four riders have won the Tour de France after turning 34, and Evans is the only one to do so since 1948, so it was reasonable to ask if Porte still had a serious challenge in him.

But he just kept on trucking.

Second in the 2019 Tour Down Under was bettered with another overall win this year, with a top-five finish at the Tour of California and multiple stage and GC challenges at the Criterium du Dauphine keeping him in the back of everyone’s mind, and he just missed the top 10 at last year’s Tour de France.

Even so, when the 35-year-old arrived for his 10th Tour de France this year, he was not considered a major threat.

Fans scream at Richie Porte as he climbs a mountain on his bike during the Tour de France.
At 35, Porte is pushing past the usual prime for a champion cyclist.(AP: Christophe Ena)

The only reason he was Trek’s leader in the race was because teammate and 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali pulled out to focus on the Olympics and his home Giro d’Italia.

But since the first couple of days, Porte has never been out of the mix.

He finished 14th on stage four to climb to 16th overall and hasn’t dropped below 20th in the GC standings since then, steadily making his way up the rankings like a climb up the Alps.

Ninth on stage nine, third on stage 15, fifth and sixth on 17 and 18, and then, just as Evans did nine years ago, he produced a cold-blooded ride in the high-pressure time trial to leapfrog into that all-important final spot.

2020 may be the last time we see him seriously challenge at a Grand Tour or even race as a team leader, and it would have felt wrong to see him come so close so often over a decade of professional racing and not finish up with a Parisian podium to his name.

Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte’s Tour de France podium finish comes at expense of missing daughter’s birth

Richie Porte had his wife’s blessing to miss the birth of their daughter to compete in this year’s Tour de France, but it came with an important caveat.

After becoming the second Australian to secure a podium finish at cycling’s biggest race, Porte said wife Gemma was succinct in her messaging before he left.

“[She] said to me, ‘Go to the Tour, do your thing … [but] if I turn the television on and you’re at the back of the peloton, I’ll be a little bit pissed,'” he said.

“I came here and I knew I had a mission to achieve. To miss the birth — I feel like this goes a little bit of the way to make it worthwhile.”

Porte, who has had injuries and illness derail Tour de France campaigns in the past, said coronavirus-imposed rescheduling of the race that saw it clash with the baby’s due date was on brand for him.

“I guess that’s just me, the luck I have, that I would miss the birth of my daughter,” he said.

Richie Porte wears sunglasses on top of his head and wears a blue medical mask
The Tour de France was rescheduled from its usual July timeslot because of the coronavirus pandemic.(AP: Christophe Ena)

Gemma Porte, who met her husband when he was at Team Sky between 2012 and 2016, was tuning in from home with their two-week-old, Eloise.

After watching the Launceston native time-trial his way into third place overall in the race’s penultimate stage, the new mum was understandably tired.

“I need a drink … how much can you drink whilst breastfeeding exactly?” she joked on Twitter.


‘One of the best days of my life’

In the wake of his historic performance, Richie Porte recalled his childhood days watching Le Tour at all hours of the night and early morning back in Tasmania.

He described it as the realisation of a dream.

“I look forward to getting to Paris and getting the race over and done with and take that step on the podium,” he said

“It’s going to be one of the best days of my life.”


With the final stage on the Champs Elysees in Paris effectively a flat ceremonial stage, the general classification (GC) placings are basically locked in.

The only thing realistically up for grabs are green-jersey points, including an all-out assault for a stage win among the sprinters.

As fellow Australian Caleb Ewan tries to win the prestigious final sprint for the second straight year (and a sixth stage win in the past two years), Porte and the other GC contenders will be doing their best to stay out of the muck.

And national ties be damned, Porte hopes the man who was designated as his bodyguard during the race, world road race champion Mads Pedersen, can get a look-in on the Champs Elysees.

“If he doesn’t have to babysit me like he did for the last three weeks, then [getting out of the way is] the best thing I can do,” Porte said.

“He deserves a win tomorrow. It would be the cherry on the cake.”

Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte set for Tour de France podium as Tadej Pogacar crushes rival in thrilling penultimate stage

In an incredible climax to the Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar crushed his fellow Slovenian, Primoz Roglic, in the last stage before the finish in Paris.

Pogacar is now poised to win the Tour de France after claiming the overall leader’s yellow jersey after clocking 55 minutes, 55 seconds in the time-trial stage.

Pogacar not only secured the yellow jersey in the time trial, he won the stage too. Roglic had started with a lead of 57 seconds over his countryman.

The upset comes as Australian Richie Porte is poised to take third place on the podium in Paris.

He’s the second Australian to achieve the feat since Cadel Evans in 2011.


The Tasmanian, who was sitting in fourth place, leapfrogged Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez into third place overall by finishing the 20th stage in third spot.


Pogacar’s win all but guarantees the 21-year-old will become the youngest victor in more than 100 years, since Henri Cornet in 1904.

“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” Pogacar said after Roglic laboured to the finish, no longer in the race lead.


Stage 20 was a 36.2-kilometre individual time trial between Lure and La Planche des Belles Filles.

Pogacar won the solo effort against the clock as Roglic cracked in the uphill section, a 5.9 kilometre climb at an average gradient of 8.5 per cent.

A person on a bicycle in lycra rides in the tour de france.
Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar wins and takes the overall leader’s yellow jersey as he crosses the finish line of stage 20 of the Tour de France.(AP: Thibault Camus)

“I don’t know what to say, it’s a dream,” said Pogacar, who now leads second-placed Roglic by 59 seconds ahead of Sunday’s final stage, a largely processional ride to the Champs Elysees in Paris where only the final sprint is contested.

“Getting the yellow jersey on the final day, we were dreaming of it since the start. I knew every corner on the road, thanks to the work of my team.

“I think that my head is going to explode.”


A raw talent who holds no fear, Pogacar, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Monday, now holds three distinctive jerseys — the yellow, the white jersey for the best under-25 rider and the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.

The upset echoes that of the last day of the 1989 Tour de France when American Greg LeMond won the race by eight seconds over France’s Laurent Fignon after starting the time-trial 50 seconds off the pace.

After losing all hope of overall victory following a crash in the opening stage, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot rode through impressive crowds and smoke in his hometown of Melisey, where the roads had his name and that of his goat Kim painted all over them, adding to the sense of surrealism on the day.

Porte says third place ‘feels like victory’

Porte said his brilliant time trial ride to all but claim third spot on the penultimate day of Tour de France felt as good as winning the race.

The Tasmanian started the 99 seconds behind Miguel Angel Lopez in fourth, but produced the time trial of his life to finish 1:21 behind Pogacar’s stunning 55:55 to leapfrog the Colombian.

Australia's Richie Porte wearing white rides up a French peak, mouth open as another cyclist smiles from behind.
Richie Porte is now poised to claim third place in the Tour de France.(Reuters: Stephane Mahe)

Porte has endured so much disappointment over the years, including an untimely puncture early in the 2016 Tour that eventually cost him a likely podium finish.

He also crashed out in 2017 and 2018.

But aside from a puncture scare inside the final 8km of the 14th stage last week, where he was forced to jump on teammate Kenny Elissonde’s bike to stay in touch with the main group, Porte has enjoyed a largely trouble-free Tour.

“This means so much to me,” Porte told ITV Sport.

“I came here without any real pressure. In the lockdown I didn’t even think this race was going to happen.

“There’s been so many years of disappointment, crashes and whatever and dramas.

“We’ve had dramas here like in Leon with Kenny’s bike the other day with the puncture so to come away with the podium is amazing.

“It’s no secret that I will be leaving Trek-Segafredo … but the way they have got around me this year and supported me has been fantastic.

“I had the world champion as my bodyguard and all of the boys have played their part it’s incredible.”

Porte’s involvement in the delayed running of the race forced him to miss the birth of his daughter Eloise last week in Monaco and he admitted he’d considered missing the race altogether but was persuaded to take part by wife Gemma.

“I missed the birth of my second child but my wife told me to race and said if she saw me sulking at the back of the peloton she would be upset with me,” he said.

“So to come here and finish third … this is sweet.

“I am over the moon, this feels like a victory for me.”


Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte could time trial himself onto the Tour de France podium

After more than 3,300km and 83 hours of racing, the Tour de France is tantalisingly close to reaching its ultimate destination in Paris.

And, although there are only two Australian riders at this year’s race, there’s a real possibility that both will be standing on a podium on the Champs Elysees.

Sprinter Caleb Ewan has admirably managed to haul himself through the high Alps and, if his legs have recovered enough, could reprise his performance from last year’s race by winning the Tour’s final sprint on the cobbles of the French capital.

However, in terms of overall honours, Ewan is the best part of six hours behind the leaders and well off the pace in the green jersey standings.

A smiling Caleb Ewan raises one finger after crossing the finish line.
Can Caleb Ewan repeat his victory on the Champs Elysees this year?(Reuters: Christian Hartmann)

Richie Porte though, is much closer to the top of the pile and is in with a genuine chance of making the overall podium for the first time.

Porte currently sits in fourth — which would already mark his best-ever finish.

If he is able to battle his way into third place, he will become just the second Australian to finish on the podium at the Tour de France.

Standing between him and a famous result is a 36.2km individual time trial from Lure to the summit of the short but sharp climb of La Planche des Belles Filles.

Is Richie Porte a good time trial rider?

Porte has a handful of professional time trial victories to his name, although none of note since the 2017 Criterium du Dauphine.

However, this is not a classic time trial.

Due to the extreme ramp up La Planche des Belles Filles to finish the stage, climbing ability will be important — and that could play in his favour.

Richie Porte on Willunga Hill
Richie Porte has great pedigree on Willunga Hill that may help him conquer La Planche des Belles Filles.(Supplied: Meaghan Coles Photography)

Thanks to his exploits at the Tour Down Under, Porte is known as the King of Willunga Hill.

Porte won the stage that ends on Old Willunga Hill every year between 2014 and 2019 — which should put him in good stead to tackle tonight’s stage.

However, La Planche des Belles Filles is almost double the length (5.9km to 3.7km) and noticeably steeper (8.5 per cent to 7 per cent) than Willunga Hill.

There is little doubt that the Tour summit is harder than its South Australian counterpart, with a brutal 20 per cent ramp in the closing stages that will have the weaker climbers zigzagging all over the road just to stay upright.

Despite that, the Tasmanian’s pedigree on climbs like that can’t hurt.

Who are Richie Porte’s closest competitors?

Two cyclists, one in a white jersey ahead of one in yellow, straining as they ride.
Slovenians Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic are the ones to beat.

Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar (+59 seconds) are relatively clear of the chasing pack — and are both excellent time trialists.

Roglic won three individual time trials in grand tours last year — although the race leader was pipped (by just nine seconds) at the Slovenian national championships in June by Pogacar.

The battle for the overall lead is still likely to be between the two Slovenians but, with such a brutal ramp up to the summit of the final climb, contenders could lose minutes if they misjudge their effort and run out of gas.

So the Slovenian pair are far from out of the woods yet, meaning third-placed Miguel Angel Lopez should be a genuine target for Porte.

The Colombian showed he has good climbing legs after his impressive win in stage 17, but Porte should have his match on the flat.

There is precedent for Australians making late charges in Tour de France time trials.

Cadel Evans trailed Andy Schleck by 57 seconds heading into the 20th stage, a 42.5km time trial in Grenoble.

However, he overhauled the notoriously poor time-trialist Schleck and his brother Frank to claim a historic victory and wear the yellow jersey into Paris.

Cadel Evans holds his bicycle in front of the Arc de Triomphe after winning the Tour de France
Cadel Evans won the Tour in 2011, but he was behind heading into the penultimate stage.(REUTERS: Pascal Rossignol)

It’s not just those above Porte in the rankings that pose a threat, though.

Spaniards Mikel Landa and Enric Mas are both within touching distance of Porte, which might make things interesting.

Can Porte make up time on the final stage?

If the time gaps are still small heading into the final stage, could Porte attack his rivals and potentially win back seconds to get on the podium?

For a variety of reasons, that’s not really likely, unfortunately, which is why everything rides on the penultimate time trial stage.

Part of the reason for that is one of the many instances of cycling etiquette, such as not attacking the leader if he suffers a mechanical.

Almost every year since the Tour peloton first rolled to a halt on the Champs Elysees in 1975, the final stage has been a procession, allowing the winning team a chance to enjoy their victory after a brutal three weeks of racing.

Britain's Geraint Thomas, left, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey and Britain's Christopher Froome toast with Champagne
Champagne tends to substitute for more typical sports hydration on the final roll into Paris.(AP: Marco Bertorello)

Even when the Tour has been nail-bitingly close on the final stage, there have been no attempts to attack the leader from the man in second.

Want an example? Cadel Evans trailed Alberto Contador by 23 seconds in the 2007 edition of the race and still did not attack into Paris.

This was mostly for the other, principle reason. Practicality.

The final stage is always as flat as a pancake and relatively short — this year’s 122.5km makes it the shortest of the Tour by around 20km (with the exception of the Time Trial).

On such a course, it would take an enormous effort to create a breakaway from the peloton and then stay away on the Champs Elysees circuit, testing the tired legs of your teammates to the limit.

And it’s not just the leader’s team you’d be working against.

The sprinters teams, such as Caleb Ewan’s Lotto Soudal, would be loath to allow the race to end in anything other than a bunch sprint.

Caleb Ewan holds one hand in the air and points to the sky
Caleb Ewan will want to add to his two stage victories — and the sprinters teams will make sure the stage ends in a bunch sprint.(Pool via AP: Christophe Petit-Tesson)

Has the last stage ever been a race for overall position?

Although it has become commonplace to have a processional final stage, there have been occasions where that hasn’t happened — and it’s lead to some stunning drama.

The only time in recent years that there has been a change in leader on the final day just happened to feature the closest finish in Tour de France history.

In 1989, Greg Lemond overhauled Frenchman Laurent Fignon in a final stage time trial to win by just 8 seconds.

No Frenchman has ever come so close to winning the Tour since then, and although it might be churlish to suggest that the mental scars from that incident has meant no Tour de France director would dare end a Tour in such a way again, it probably hasn’t helped.

At the 2017 Giro d’Italia, Tom Dumoulin won a time trial on the final stage into Milan to overhaul Nairo Quintana by 31 seconds.

Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte’s Tour de France podium punctured before fightback as Primoz Roglic tightens grip on yellow jersey

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.

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

Richard Carapaz stands arms aloft wearing the polka-dot jersey on a Tour de France dais.
Richard Carapaz is now wearing the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France.(Reuters: Stuart Franklin)

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.”


Source link

Australian News

Richie Porte climbs higher on Tour de France general classification as Miguel Angel Lopez wins epic mountain stage

Australia’s Richie Porte gritted his teeth and delivered a brave performance to finish fifth on the most difficult stage yet of this year’s Tour de France which finished at the summit of Col de la Loze.

The fifth placing on the stage moved Porte up from sixth overall to fourth in the general classification as Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez took advantage of the high altitudes so familiar to him in his native country and sprinted clear in the final kilometres to take the stage victory.

The win moved him into third position overall behind yellow jersey wearer Primoz Roglic, who was second on the stage ahead of his nearest rival and fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

“I feel emotional because of the work done at home with my family, my wife, my son, I dedicate this victory to them,” Lopez said.


Lopez moved to within 1:26 of Roglic, who extended his lead over Pogacar to 57 seconds after the two engaged in an epic duel to the finish line, in which Roglic seemed to break his younger countryman’s spirit.

The pair, along with Porte and Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss, had already engaged in a tough battle that started during the final ascent, which included gradients of 24 per cent on the final 21 kilometre climb.

“It was again a good day for us,” Roglic said.

“Of course, I always want to win but I gained some time and I saw that others had problems. I knew I could gain time today and that’s what we did.”

Painful climb to the finish

With four kilometres to go Kuss took off when the man who had led for much of the day — Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz — came back to the small chasing pack, but he was followed by Lopez who had far more speed.

Commentators speculated at the time that it was a poor move for Kuss to leave his teammate and yellow jersey wearer but Roglic confirmed it was all part of a plan.

“Also, the others tried to chase him back and it helped me realise many guys around me were struggling.”

Australia's Richie Porte wearing white rides up a French peak, mouth open as another cyclist smiles from behind.
Richie Porte pushes through the pain as he battles Sepp Kuss to the finish line on stage 17 of the 2020 Tour de France.(Reuters: Stephane Mahe)


Porte did well just to hang on for as long as he did, having been dropped a few metres off the back of Roglic and Pogacar as they sought to jostle for second, but on multiple occasions the Australian managed to get back on their tail.

However with two kilometres to go the Slovenians showed their class and finally dropped the dogged Australian, who eventually crossed the line with American Kuss.

Porte finished the stage in fourth overall on the general classification 3’05” behind Roglic and 1’39” behind third-placed Lopez

Fans ignore COVID-19 protocols

Masked Tour de France fans converge as leading riders make a large climb.
Tour de France fans crowd around Tadej Pogacar as he makes the final climb to the stage 17 finish.(Supplied: SBS Television)

Present for the stage was French President Emmanuel Macron, but he was far from the only one and it would be hard to imagine that Tour organisers were happy with scenes that were beamed across the world as the leaders made the final climb.

This year’s Tour set against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic has seen riders frequently tested and the usual crowds sparse, but that was not the case as large numbers of cycling fans closed in on the road and leaders during the final climb.

After the stage Mr Macron told reporters: “It’s extremely important to show that we can live with the virus.”


Source link

Australian News

Reigning Tour de France champion Egan Bernal pulls out of race ahead of 17th stage

Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal has withdrawn from the race just hours before a mammoth stage in the Alps.

Bernal had been struggling since Sunday’s stage in the Jura mountains, where he dropped more than seven minutes on the main contenders and slipped out of contention.

After Monday’s rest day, Bernal suffered again on Tuesday’s 16th stage to Villard-de-Lans.

Hampered by back pain and subsequently knee concerns, the 23-year-old indicated afterwards he hoped to continue out of respect for the race.

But on the morning of Wednesday’s queen stage to the Col de la Loze above Meribel, his team Ineos Grenadiers announced the Colombian was withdrawing from the race, although it did not specify the reason for the decision.

“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” Bernal said.

Bernal was in 16th place overall, 19 minutes and four seconds behind race leader Primoz Roglic.

The decision comes five days short of the race’s concluding stage in Paris.

“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” Ineos Grenadiers team principal Dave Brailsford said.

“Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”

Bernal had pulled out of the Criterium du Dauphine with back pains last month.

A young man wearing all yellow cyclist gear holds his fist in the air while riding
Bernal, at 22, was the youngest Tour de France winner since 1909 last year.(AP: Christophe Ena)

In 2019 he became the youngest rider to win the Tour de France in 110 years.

Stage 17, arguably the toughest of the race, features the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze, the Tour’s highest point this year at 2,304 metres.

The traffic-free pass between the ski resorts of Meribel and Courchevel was opened to cyclists this year after a forest track was paved by local authorities.

The last six kilometres of the climb are particularly difficult, with very steep sections and sharp turns.


Source link