One word dominated reaction to Richie Porte’s second successive Tour de France-ending crash.
“Absolutely gutted. Heal up soon mate,” Tweeted four-time winner Chris Froome.
“I am gutted!” said Jens Voigt, a veteran of 17 Tours. “Poor guy. I feel your pain my friend.”
And back home, the Tasmanian-based Bennelong SwissWellness team that launched his career added: “Absolutely gutted. This sport is just so cruel at times. Luck plays such a huge part at times. All the very best on your recovery mate.”
From the moment the Launceston 33-year-old fractured his right clavicle in a crash just 10 kilometres into the highly-anticipated 156.5km cobble-strewn ninth stage from Arras to Roubaix, sympathy was pouring out from the cycling community.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever been so gutted for a rider withdrawing from a bike race because for the last two years I’ve truly felt Richie Porte could climb onto the podium and was a chance of winning the Tour,” reporter Dave McKenzie told SBS viewers.
“The Tour de France does not discriminate. It does not say ‘we’re sorry you had a bad day last year, we won’t let that happen this year’. The sport of cycling can be brutal and this is heart-wrenching.”
Two Australian Tour de France greats joined the chorus.
“It seems Richie Porte just cannot have any luck in the Tour de France,” Robbie McEwen said. “Since he left Sky we’ve been waiting for Richie Porte’s big moment. He and so many others had high hopes for this year to be able to win. It really is a lottery and Richie has just been incredibly unlucky. The Tour is so unforgiving.”
Stuart O’Grady added: “He’s got to let devastation and sadness kick in [then] he’s got to refocus and get another goal. The world champs are really tough this year and if he can be riding around Australia in a rainbow jersey it will ease the pain of this Tour de France.”
Even before Porte was pictured leaving hospital in a sling with a smile and a thumbs up, his BMC team were optimistic about his recovery.
Chief medical officer Max Testa described the injury as “straightforward” and expected a return to riding in a few weeks.
Sports director Fabio Baldato said the team was “really disappointed and frustrated” while Belgian teammate and race leader Greg Van Avermaet added: “You have some bad luck one year and you normally come back and then everything goes well. But for this to happen two years in a row is sad for Richie. He was well-prepared and in good shape so we really believed in him.”