Richie Porte is set to resume his career later this month in Spain.
Richie Porte is set to resume his career later this month in Spain.

Emotions spill over as Tour crashes take toll on Porte

GEMMA Porte calls her husband the Tin Man.

Richie Porte, by his own admission, isn't an emotional person. But even for Australia's leading Grand Tour cyclist there are some pills that are impossible to swallow.

When the Tasmanian was last month told by doctors that a crash he wasn't responsible for less than 10km into Stage 9 of the Tour de France has again shattered his dreams, it all becomes too much.

The tears flowed.

Gemma, back home in Monaco with the couple's newborn boy, Luca, tweets: "I hate cycling!".

"You think about all the sacrifices. You think of all the training camps you've done and leaving the baby at home and going off to races when we've got a newborn," Porte said this week.

"All the time wasted, not just me but everyone in the team supporting me. It's just the same as last year. As soon as it happened the first doctor who saw me said 'You need to get into the ambulance' and I just couldn't face it."

Richie Porte holds his chest after crashing during the ninth stage of the Tour de France. (photo: AFP)
Richie Porte holds his chest after crashing during the ninth stage of the Tour de France. (photo: AFP)

Twelve months after fracturing his pelvis and collarbone in a horrific crash on the corresponding stage of the 2017 Tour, he is again taken to hospital. The diagnosis is less severe - a non-displaced fracture of his right collarbone - but the outcome is depressingly familiar.

Race over.

Three weeks on, Porte is speaking after returning from a six-hour training ride in the hills of the Cote d'Azur. While he can't completely look past the cruelty that the world's biggest bike race continues to inflict on him, he has an eye on the horizon.

Where a year ago he was wheelchair-bound for close to a month, this year he is bound for the third Grand Tour of the season - the August 25-September 16 Tour of Spain - and a mountainous world championships in Austria a fortnight later.

Porte, 33, was back on the bike before Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas stood atop a Champs Elysees podium Porte believed he could make.

Porte gets medical assistance after crashing during the ninth stage of the 2017 Tour de France. (Photo: AP/Christophe Ena)
Porte gets medical assistance after crashing during the ninth stage of the 2017 Tour de France. (Photo: AP/Christophe Ena) Christophe Ena

"I didn't need surgery, but it's still bloody painful," Porte said of the collarbone.

"You bump into things and it sends a shock through your body or you try to pick up your baby.

"I had all these plans for the rest of the year about what I was going to do after the Tour. I had dinner with Thomas and Luke Rowe and we saw 'Froomey' (Chris Froome) yesterday and they're all having beers and stuff and I'm watching everything I eat and doing six-hour days on the bike getting ready for Spain. The goalposts have moved again.

"That's the thing; dealing with the disappointment. And it was bitterly disappointing this year to sit there and watch the race. I was in such good form beforehand.

"It does take a mental toll."

Porte has won almost every week-long stage race there is, with a trophy cabinet stocked with titles from Paris-Nice (twice), Tour de Romandie, Volta Catalunya and Tour de Suisse against top-shelf opposition.

Richie Porte is determined to make a speedy return. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Richie Porte is determined to make a speedy return. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) Peter Dejong

Yet the fact he has had so much success elsewhere and proven he is up there with the best in the world only serves to heighten the Tour de France frustration.

Cycling, like few others sports, throws you at the mercy of factors beyond your control.

"For sure, there's just something with me and the Tour at the moment. I can't get a straightforward run at it, but that's the nature of that race," Porte said.

"There's no denying that big crashes, when you get back on the bike, knock you around mentally. When you go down hills in training and stuff like that you're always a bit more cautious after you've had a big crash.

"In 10 years' time, I hate to think how my body is going to be with all the broken bones."

But they breed them rugged down in Tassie. And for now, the beers and his favourite Toblerone chocolate are parked.

The Vuelta a Espana awaits and with it, what could be a tremendous injection of late-season redemption at a prestigious race.

Richie Porte is working his way back to full fitness after a shocking crash in the Tour de France, earlier this year. Picture: Michael Klein
Richie Porte is working his way back to full fitness after a shocking crash in the Tour de France, earlier this year. Picture: Michael Klein

"It would be silly to go there thinking I can win. I'll just take it as it comes," he said.

"On the second day there's a mountain stage and there's nine summit finishes, which is unbelievable compared to the Tour where they don't like to finish on mountains anymore.

"So as a climber I can see what happens on GC (general classification), but if not maybe go for a stage win and go for the worlds.

"I've done the Vuelta before and I remember it being stinking hot and with mountains that were like goat tracks at the top, so it should be a bit of fun.

"The Tour is the Tour; it's so stressful and I'm looking forward to doing something more straightforward and a bit more relaxed."

Yet France remains the heavy dose of unfinished business. While not yet official, Porte will tackle his Tour demons in 2019 with a new team - Trek-Segafredo - in a deal expected to be announced later this month.

He will be back with a brand new band.

Like Cadel Evans at the same age, he just needs the Tour to finally play his tune.



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