Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) admitted that he was hoping to produce a slighter better performance on the Col de Beyrède at the end of the Route d’Occitanie’s principal stage in the Pyrenees, but he felt that Team Ineos were so strong throughout the day that getting the better of them was all but impossible.
“To be honest I expected a bit more from myself, but Ineos really lit it up, they were incredible, they dominated all day,” Porte told Cyclingnews.
“They rode on the front all day and were completely in charge when we got to the last climb.
“When you’ve got Chris Froome, a four-time Tour de France champion, pulling like he did to line it out, the rest of us were always going to be struggling. Then Tao Geoghegan-Hart did an awesome job after Chris, and the final two just finished it off."
The Australian finished seventh on the Beyrède, staying with the lead group until he was one of only five riders at the front.
“I went a little bit into the red and then dropped back, but there was no way anyone could have attacked them yesterday. It would have been pointless. Anyone who attacked would have been reeled in almost right away.”
There has been widespread speculation that Porte will be returning to the British team at the end of this season having left what was then Team Sky at the end of 2015, but he didn’t want to comment on these rumours.
“I don’t want to go into the transfer side of things out of respect for Trek. They’ve been great to me over the last two years and I really appreciate that,” said the Australian.
After Occitanie, Porte will go on to ride the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge and then the Tour de l’Ain, which he says should be quite a contest due to the quality of the field, including the presence of strong squads from both Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos.
“It’s looking like a battle royal as Ineos have got almost all of their top riders there and Steven Kruiswijk will be turning up with a great Jumbo-Visma team,” Porte predicted.
“It’s going to be hard for the rest of us, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got no chance. You could see yesterday that Thibaut Pinot stuck in there, and so did that young Astana guy [Aleksandr Vlasov], he’s some talent. When we saw Superman López collecting bottles from the team car the day before we wondered what was going on, and clearly that young guy Vlasov was their pick for this race. He’s going to make a real name for himself.”
Remembering Nicolas Portal
Like his friend and former Sky teammate Froome, Porte admitted that riding over very familiar terrain in the Pyrenees during Occitanie’s third stage had brought back many memories of racing and training with the late Nicolas Portal in the team car behind.
“I don’t think there’s a day goes by when Nico isn’t in my mind at some point and that was certainly the case yesterday,” said the Trek team leader.
“He wasn’t just a directeur in your earpiece, he was a directeur on your bike with you as well. He was such a happy guy and a good friend.
"Even after I left Sky he’d always say hello and we’d swap messages. He always checked on how I was getting on. It felt particularly poignant being in his home region yesterday. He was such a fatherly figure for his riders and so well liked. I’ve felt his loss immensely.”