Richie Porte marked the anniversary of his horrific Tour de France crash by becoming just the second Tasmanian to win a stage in the world’s biggest bike race.
A year to the day since he was left sprawled on a wet roadside in the Jura Mountains with his dreams and pelvis shattered, Porte was celebrating his first Grand Tour stage win on the opposite side of France.
BMC Racing Team’s victory in the third stage at Cholet is just the second time a Tasmanian has topped a podium in the race’s 115-year history.
Porte’s fellow Launcestonian Matthew Goss was the first in 2013 – ironically also in a team time trial alongside compatriot Simon Gerrans.
After a frustrating couple of stages, the victory over 35.5 kilometres catapulted Porte back into race contention and landed his Belgian teammate Greg Van Avermaet in the yellow jersey.
“It's been a fantastic day,” said Porte, who told The Examiner earlier this week that a stage victory was among his priorities for this year’s Tour.
“Today puts us right back in the game. It's still a long way to Paris but it's great to win a stage at the Tour and we will enjoy this moment.
“It's also great to have the yellow jersey in the team and Greg deserves it. For me, the next few days are really about staying out of trouble.”
Porte remains adrift of the lead by 51 seconds – the margin he lost when caught behind a crash on stage 1 – but has leapt up to 14th overall, ahead of most of his main rivals including four-time winner Chris Froome (Sky).
“I think after what happened on the first stage, throwing 51 seconds away, it was good to take back time on some of the other [general classification] guys,” he said.
“I think the guys were really impressive. They did a really good job. It's hard to pinpoint one of the guys but when you have someone like Stefan Küng, it makes it a little easier."
Porte, who is heavily linked with the American Trek-Segafredo team for next season, expected stage 4 to be more “straightforward” but stage 5 to be “really hard” before the daunting cobblestones on stage 9.
Third-fastest at the 13km checkpoint, BMC set the best time at the 26.5km mark before the first five riders powered across the line in 38'46"20 to move ahead of Team Sky.
“It was a goal to get yellow in the first week,” Van Avermaet said. “I have worn it one time already and it was an incredible feeling. I want to thank my teammates as without them, it wouldn't have happened."
"I reckon all the questions will be about my crash last year and if it plays on my mind. Well of course it does. You don’t come off a bike at 70 km/h and just dust yourself off and keep riding." @richie_porte in fine form ahead of @LeTourhttps://t.co/6xE1QRrZzH— Rob Shaw (@TheShawThing) July 5, 2018
Controversy surrounds whether Porte has previously won a Grand Tour stage. On the penultimate leg of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, he finished second behind Russian Denis Menchov who was subsequently banned due to adverse biological passport findings but is still credited with the win.
Porte has finished runner-up three times in Tour de France stages.
Goss won two stages in the Giro d’Italia (2010 and 2012) and Legana’s Micheal Wilson was a winner at both the Giro (1982) and Vuelta a Espana (1983).