Richie Porte‘s Tour de France turned pear-shaped quickly when a rear wheel puncture in the final kilometres of only the second stage to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin cost him 1-45 on his rivals.
The Australian, who co-leads BMC Racing with Tejay van Garderen after helping Chris Froome for years, relied on the service of Mavic as the flat happened at 4.5 kilometres to race in a technical uphill finish.
The mechanic worked quickly, but given the importance of the incident for Porte’s overall hopes, the change seemed to take hours.
Porte arrived to the bus in the team’s red and black kit with the grit of the day and the pain of the time loss showing on his face.
“It was a disaster but what can you do?” Porte said to a bank of television cameras. “You are sitting second wheel in perfect position… I don’t know what the hell I hit, but next thing the rear tyre went down.
“It’s a disaster, but I don’t know what you really can do. I mean… I just move on, I suppose.”
Disaster struck Porte in the 2015 Giro d’Italia when he punctured in the final kilometres and took an illegal wheel change from a rival that cost him a two-minute penalty. A crash later in the race forced him to abandon and give up hopes of winning the Giro for Team Sky.
“It is kind of like last year in the Giro, but it probably would have been quicker to take the two-minute penalty than the wheel change I got,” explained Porte.
“It’s all far from over but it’s quite a hard one to take. We just have to pretend that it never happened and wait of the mountains to come.”
Questions were asked before the Tour about who was leading BMC Racing even if the team said that Porte and van Garderen would both fight for the classification.
Porte now admitted the leadership swings towards van Garderen. “I suppose it does. Obviously Tejay’s not lost any time on the main GC guys.”
“I think that’s a knee-jerk reaction on his part,” American van Garderen said at the other end of the bus. “I still see us as equal co-leaders. He’ll certainly still have support on the road and I think he just needs to stay positive and not lose focus.”
Watch: Highlights from stage two of the 2016 Tour de France
For a second day in a row, he crashed. On stage two, he fell on the his left shoulder and knee, opposite the other side he injured in a high-speed crash on the opening day of the race.
After the fall at 120 kilometres to race, he re-grouped himself slowly and appeared at one point, ready to give up.
He re-joined the peloton, but in the last kilometres, slipped behind 48 seconds as the road tilted upwards to the finish where his teammate Peter Sagan won in a group with Froome.
“I lost time that I didn’t want to lose,” Contador said. “I tried to minimise the maximum amount of time I lost. Cycling is like that, and the Tour is unfolding like that for me.
“Physically, it’s a setback. I cannot pedal like I want to. Nevertheless, I know that’s a consequence of my falls. I want to maintain a high morale. I am still standing, but I am banged up.”