Richie Porte survived another brutal day in the 2010 Giro d’Italia to put himself in a position to become the first Australian winner of a Grand Tour. Getting in to the 60 rider break that went early in the 163 kilometre stage, the 25-year-old Tasmanian jumped into the overall lead with half the race already covered.
Porte came in to this Giro flying well below the radar of the general cycling public. He won the time trial at the Tour of Romandy last month, but as far as results go, that was it.
The Australian is still in his first year as a professional and wasn’t considered a favourite as the pundits looked to Cadel Evans instead.
But can Porte win the Giro d’Italia and become the first Australian winner of a Grand Tour? “I haven’t given it that much thought yet. Certainly I got the team around me, but we’ve been under-rated in the media,” he said. “We are a young team, but when you see Chris Anker Sørensen, who can win stages, Laurent Didier … these big names. I pinch myself that these guys are riding for me,” Porte continued.
“I didn’t lose that much time the other day [to Monte Terminillo]. If I am in with a shot in the time trial [to Verona] then I think they will have made a mistake.”
Porte’s climbing ability remains un-proven, and with five mountain stages still to come in the last ten stages it would seem unlikely he can hold on to the lead. The first half of this race is bound to take it’s toll on many in the peloton, and Saxo Bank only came to Italy with their B team
Nevertheless, Porte found himself leader of the race on the road, and thinking about the pink jersey. “It was on the back of my mind the whole time,” he said. “It is incredible they let me go.”
The disorganisation in Astana, BMC and Liquigas-Doimo, coupled with the terrible conditions allowed the group to build a near 20 minute lead and arrive in L’Aquila with 12 minutes spare. Porte now leads by 1’42” over David Arroyo Caisse d’Epargne that today looked like the race’s strongest team.
“I thought, ‘this is a big group and we have a chance’,” Port said. “I didn’t really want to write my victory speech out there on the road, even the last two kilometres were tricky. I sort of had it in the back of my mind it was going to stay away, pretty much all day.”
Porte came to cycling late via triathlons and last year, riding for Andrea Tafi’s team, he won a stage of the Baby Giro.
The professional Giro d’Italia, though, is much more demanding. The race will cover high-mountains through the Dolomites and Alps next week, and Porte is only familiar with one, the Mortirolo climb on the stage to Aprica.