Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) may have lost time in the battle for the yellow jersey on the Tour de France's 'queen stage' – stage 17 on Wednesday – but the Australian still managed to come out a winner, as he moved up two places in the overall standings, from sixth to fourth.
Porte, 35, finished fifth on the summit finish of the Col de la Loze, 1:01 behind stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), but he dropped a number of his primary GC rivals to leap above both Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Pro Cycling). On a brutally tough day in the race, Porte had to keep pace with the main contenders and then ride his own race when the final attacks came within 3km of the finish. He was well supported by his team throughout the stage, with standout performances from Mads Pedersen and Kenny Elissonde.
"To be honest, there are climbs in cycling, like the Zoncolan, that are absolutely brutal, but today, with the final at altitude… I could barely pedal my bike, and with 500 metres to go, I couldn't stand up," Porte said. "Everybody went super deep. It was a hard day, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. Tomorrow is another hard day; we'll see how the legs back up.
"When I reconned this stage in July with [teammate] Bauke Mollema, we knew it was going to be the queen stage at the Tour. To get through and come away in a better position than we started in makes me happy.
"It was a fistfight, to be honest. It was every man for himself," he continued. "Sepp Kuss [Jumbo-Visma] was there for Primoz Roglic, but at the end of the day, there was nothing really teammates could do to help. I'm happy to move to fourth on GC."
Porte is still some way off a podium place, sitting 1:39 behind Lopez overall, but the Australian can take hope from his consistency so far in the race. Had he not lost over a minute in the cross-winds on stage 7, he would be even closer to Lopez's current third place in the standings, and with another tough day in the mountains coming on stage 18, the Trek rider remains focused on the GC.
"Let's see how it is tomorrow and get through Friday, then hopefully do a good time trial as well," he said, referring to Saturday's test, when the Tour's penultimate stage finishes at the top of the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles.