TASMANIAN Richie Porte feared his Tour de France chances were over before conquering a mountain of his own to stay in contention yesterday.
What had always loomed as a problematic second stage of this year's race proved even more eventful than expected for the 29-year-old key support rider for reigning champion Chris Froome.
Porte crashed with 65 kilometres remaining of the undulating 201-kilometre leg from York to Sheffield and could be seen standing at the roadside requesting a new bike from his team as the peloton disappeared from view.
The crash with Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) threatened to scuttle Porte's hopes of remaining in touch with the lead riders to provide Team Sky with a plan B should Froome falter, a policy that saw the roommates sitting first and second after eight stages last year.
``It was like deja vu when I crashed,'' he said.
``As I stood by the road and waited for mechanical service, I feared a repeat of last year when - after missing the early split on stage 9 - the group rode away and I lost vital early time overall.
``I thought, `Here we go again.' The incident also reminded how one second all can be fine on the Tour and the next it isn't.
``Sometimes, and no matter where you are in the bunch, there's no escape from a crash.''
After a swift bike change, teammates Danny Pate and Bernhard Eisel dropped back to help Porte chase back to the peloton before the climb up to Holme Moss.
He managed to regain contact with the leading bunch and was the last of 20 riders across the line clocked as two seconds behind Italian breakaway winner Vincenzo Nibali's 5:8.36.
Crucially, the rest of the 196-strong field were at least 16 seconds further back, leaving a relieved Porte 16th overall with only those two seconds separating him from yellow jersey wearer Nibali.
``It took a while for me to be back up and chasing the bunch,'' added Porte, who is also the leading rider among the 10 Australians in the race.
``The mechanic was already nearby and quick to be there, but I knew my bike would not be going anywhere with me on it, so he radioed to the team car saying I'd need a new bike.
``The team was great. It was a crappy time to crash, but once I got on to Holme Moss I was confident I would be able to ride myself back on.
``It still took a bit out of me to get back on though. It was a hard stage with 10 climbs and everyone knew it would be. It certainly lived up to everyone's expectations.
``I know that I am ready. I also know my form is ticking along nicely now.
``If my form is to ever be at its peak, for me there is no better time for it than now.''
Porte said he had been blown away by the unprecedented interest in the 101st Tour during its opening three stages in England.
``We have heard all year in the build-up to the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire about how strong the support will be for the early stages. But I wasn't prepared for the size of the crowds that we saw on stage one,'' said the former St Patrick's College student, who was photographed with Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge on the start line in Leeds.
``It's not every day you get to stand with the royals. And standing behind this happy couple for an official photograph with the peloton at the start was a moment to remember, even if I was a little away from them in the second row.
``But as the entire day unfolded, discovering the real size of the crowd was another highlight.
``With the crowd 10 deep in places, it was dangerous at times with so many people taking selfies getting in our path.''