Richie Porte's Tour de France podium hopes appear destined to be decided by a penultimate-stage uphill race against the clock after another day of edge-of-the-saddle drama in the Alps.
A stunning performance on stage 18 of the world's biggest bike race saw the 35-year-old Tasmanian fight back from a late puncture to retain his fourth position.
Riding much of a gravel section with a flat front tyre, Porte limited his losses until his team car arrived and then almost single-handedly caught back up with his main rivals to record a third top-10 finish in the last four stages.
"I couldn't believe it!" said the Trek-Segafredo team leader, whose best finish in nine previous Tours was fifth in 2016.
"After doing such a hard climb and then to have that bad luck at the top ... not ideal!
Colliding with a stopping TV motorbike while enjoying a potentially podium-delivering breakaway could be dismissed as a freak occurrence ... if it was a one-off.@LeTour owes @richie_porte a break - preferably not of the bone variety, again.https://t.co/0GDNEMtzVk— Rob Shaw (@TheShawThing) August 24, 2020
"As soon as I told (team director) Kim (Andersen), he told me to keep riding. So that's what I had to do. I knew it was going to be quicker to take a bike than a wheel.
"I am not sure how long I was riding on the puncture, but I do remember there was one corner that I had to take that was a little dicey, and I was happy to keep it upright."
Porte resumed the race nearly 30 seconds behind the yellow jersey group and 25 of the mountainous stage's 175 kilometres remaining into La Roche-sur-Foron.
Ahead, Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) had moved ahead of Porte into fourth place while fellow Spaniard Enric Mas (Movistar) had the most to gain and was encouraging the group to attack the unfortunate Tasmanian.
With the help of leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma teammates Tom Dumoulin and Wout van Aert, Porte stayed calm, despite the gap stretching to 40 seconds.
"In the chase, I was as calm as could be," he said.
"From the car, Kim was giving me time checks and keeping me calm. I figured that the two Jumbo riders, it was in their interest to come back to Roglic too."
Porte rejoined his fellow general classification contenders with 10km to go and finished in sixth place.
"I know it's a team sport and all, but it's nice when some of your competitors lend a hand to get you back. I really appreciated it - it's nice to have friends in the bunch. I would do the same for them, I guess, if I ever can.
"I am happy that as a team we kept it cool and calm and a fast bike change. It was a hard chase back, and I didn't really think I was going to make it. But the team has been awesome around me all week, and it's the least I could do.
"It's almost as if it would have been too easy to not have any drama. It was a good day to get done, and I think I already did my time trial it was so hard to come back. To survive that and maintain my GC... I am happy to have come away with that one."
The race is set to finish in Paris on Sunday but the final placings will almost certainly be decided by Saturday's 36.2km individual time trial from Lure up to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Tassie devil has a growl
The dramatic recovery from a potentially disastrous late puncture had SBS's Tour de France commentary team heaping praise on Richie Porte.
Commentators Matthew Keenan and three-time green jersey winner Robbie McEwen said they were in awe of the Tasmanian's composure in the face of Alpine adversity.
"He has saved his Tour by himself," Keenan said.
"This might just inspire him even more for Saturday's time trial, as if he needed additional fuel on his fire."
After Enric Mas's failed attempt to capitalise on Porte's puncture, the commentators noted their subsequent exchange as the general classification rivals were reunited near the end of the 18th stage from Meribel.
There's still plenty of copies of https://t.co/8AKGz5AuXa available ($29.95) and just look how happy it made Hadspen sporting legends @Corey_Martin91 and @richie_porte.— Rob Shaw (@TheShawThing) September 8, 2020
You too could be that happy. Order at email@example.com or Facebook.
Happy to post ($42.20) or deliver. pic.twitter.com/ay6YrZpkPQ
"Richie is talking to Mas, there's a bit of conversation happening between them," Keenan observed.
McEwen added: "I love a bit of fieriness and Richie Porte has that. In his interviews he's softly-spoken, calm and polite but in situations like this, he's the Tasmanian devil."
Keenan countered: "And he had a bit of a growl on that occasion to Enric Mas. I'd love to know what he said."
So often the victim of accidents, illness, mechanicals and misfortune at the Tour, Porte's perseverance in what will be his last race as a genuine contender has not gone unnoticed on the television coverage.
"He's had so much fight in such a difficult situation and he's wrestled himself back into contention," Keenan added.