An ecstatic Richie 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 35-year-old Porte is on course for the best finish by an Australian since Cadel Evans won in 2011, with Sunday night’s final stage always processional before the race concludes with a sprint finish on the iconic Champs Elysees in Paris.
The Tasmanian started the day 99 seconds behind Miguel Angel Lopez in fourth, but produced the time-trial of his life [in the early hours of Sunday, Australian time] to finish just 1.21 seconds behind new yellow jersey holder Tadej Pogacar’s stunning 55min 55sec to leapfrog the Colombian.
Pogacar pulled off a major upset by stunning compatriot and long-time leader Primoz Roglic, who had held a 57-second lead in the general classification, in one of the most dramatic days in the race’s long history.
Australians have been coming to the Tour de France since 1914. Only one had ever made the podium – until now. Congratulations @richie_porte – an Aussie fighter and now an Aussie icon. #SBSTDF #TDF2020 #CouchPeloton
— Sam Edmund (@Sammy__Edmund) September 19, 2020
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 and he also crashed out in 2017 and ’18.
But aside from a puncture scare inside the final eight kilometres 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 Lyon 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.”
What. A. Finish.
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) September 19, 2020
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.
To say you’ve done us proud @richie_porte would be a serious understatement! So so immensely proud of you!
— Gemma Nicole Porte (@gemmanicoleb) September 19, 2020
“This is a photo I will have on the wall when I retire.
“I am over the moon. This feels like a victory for me.”