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Porte shreds Tour Down Under rivals

Sport

Richie Porte's notorious bad luck has become the only hope for his Tour Down Under rivals.

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And after the Australian cycling star’s command performance yesterday at Paracombe, something has to go hideously wrong for Porte not to claim his first Tour title.

The Tasmanian wears the overall leader’s ochre jersey for the first time, thanks to a withering attack at the end of Wednesday’s stage two.

No one could go with Porte on the steep 1.6km Paracombe climb as the 148.5km stage through the Adelaide Hills lived up to its status as the Tour’s new Queen stage.

There was plenty of defensive racing in the five laps around Stirling at the start of the stage, but Porte’s move blew his rivals away.

He won by 16 seconds to lead overall by 20 seconds.

Given the Tour often is won by just a second or two, and Porte is a three-time winner at the crucial Willunga stage on the second-last day, it might as well be 20 minutes.

“It’s incredible to wear the jersey in the biggest race in Australia,” he said.

“I’d love to win it. There are a few hard days to come, but I enjoyed today and the work the BMC guys did for me was just absolutely incredible.

“Of course, there is (pressure) – even a bad time to get a puncture or something like that. It’s definitely not over.

“But it’s just nice to win a stage like this and start the season off in a good way.”

Few riders know about cruel luck more than Porte.

In last year’s Tour de France, for example, he had his best result of fifth overall.

But for an ill-timed puncture in stage two, he could have finished on the podium.

He was also caught in the shambles on Mt Ventoux, when Chris Froome famously ran part of the course after a collision with a race motorbike.

A few days after the Tour, Porte crashed out of the Rio Olympics road race with a broken shoulder blade.

Asked if he was scarred by last year’s Tour puncture, Porte replied: “Not just last year, but the year before (in the Giro d’Italia).

“I’ve had some bad luck with punctures.

“But it’s just racing, so we’ll try to get through it as best we can.”

The Tour Down Under is Porte’s first major objective in a season when he hopes to realise his Tour de France ambitions.

After five months without racing, the year could not have started better for him.

“It would be great just to finish off the race with plain sailing, but I don’t expect that,” he said.

“There are 130 other guys in the peloton who want to make things as difficult as possible.

“But that’s where we have the team to control things.”

The Tour continues today with a 144km stage from Glenelg to Victor Harbor.

In the run to Victor last year, Porte was on the wrong end of a split in the field and lost eight seconds.

He ended up finishing second overall to compatriot Simon Gerrans by nine seconds.

-AAP

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