SYDNEY (Reuters) – Richie Porte’s third place at the Tour De France on Sunday was the best finish for an Australian barring Cadel Evans and secures his place in the pantheon of the country’s great road riders.
Although Australia lacks the pedigree of some European nations, cycling is a hugely popular pastime Down Under and amateur peletons are an ubiquitous sight on the country’s roads on weekend mornings.
Misfortune hampered Porte’s efforts to match Evans in wearing the famous yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees and almost struck again during what looks like the 35-year-old’s final bid to win cycling’s biggest prize.
Whereas illness, accident and injury derailed his 2014, 2017 and 2018 campaigns, this year it was the more mundane hazard of punctures on Stages 14 and 18 that hampered his progress.
The Trek–Segafredo rider brushed off those setbacks and all but secured his place on the podium with race winner Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic after the time trial on Saturday’s penultimate stage.
Given his past misfortunes, Porte was taking nothing for granted on Sunday even for what has become an almost ceremonial final stage through the centre of Paris.
“This stage is not a procession as they say,” Porte told reporters at the finish. “The pave here is not the nicest to ride on.
“(But) to stand on the podium was just unbelievable. Just such a great moment and I was really able to savour that today.
“The time trial yesterday, it was one of the best time trials I’ve done in my career. It’s just been such a journey …”
Porte, who missed the birth of his daughter to take part in his 10th Tour de France, will be leaving Trek–Segafredo at the end of the season and looks set to join another team as a “super domestique” support rider.
“This is sweet, though, this is a photo I’ll have on the wall when I retire,” he said after the time trial. “On the podium in the Tour, I’m over the moon, it feels like a victory to me.
“Now I can retire happy, this means everything to me.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Shri Navaratnam)