They say the Tour de France is a race of extremes. It’s true, as I found out in the Pyrenees in the ninth stage from Saint Girons to Bagneres de Bigorre. On Saturday, in the eighth stage in the Pyrenees, I had one of the best days I have had on the bike to put myself in second place on the general classification at 51 seconds. I was confident we could hold on to that position and the overall lead Chris Froome took after the display the team showed and that ended with Froomey and me finishing first and second on the stage. But now, after Sunday’s ninth stage, I’m 33rd overall at 18 minutes 30 seconds. It’s a fair old crash back down to reality.
The best thing, though, is that Chris is still in the yellow jersey and my job will be clear – to work for my good mate ”Froomey” and make sure he has the yellow jersey when the tour finishes in Paris. And if I am doing my job there and by his side, the opportunity may still pop up to take a stage win – either for Chris or myself. We’ll see what happens there – it’s still too early to say how it will pan out after seeing what Sunday produced.
Basically, though, what awaits all of us on Team Sky is an opportunity to be a part of something special – to ride for a tour-winning team.
Of course, looking back on Sunday isn’t easy or pleasant. After the stage we had the 700-kilometre transfer by bus, plane and bus from the Pyrenees to Brittany and our hotel in a beachfront town called La Baule near the start of Tuesday’s 10th stage from Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo.
The trip north after such a tough day came with a lot of time to think about what happened on Sunday. As I sat next to Froomey on the plane and bus rides, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to speak about. We both knew how each other was feeling, and we were exhausted.
But from the start of the stage, it was clear that the peloton wanted to take us on after Saturday – and they did. Obviously, the plan was for me to be the last man riding with Chris, but instead, I became one of the first to leave his side when I got dropped on the first major climb.
It all happened when Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked on the climb. Froomey jumped across to him and that was it for me. I couldn’t go and knew I was in for a long day. Then, when Valverde saw me off the back struggling, he just dropped the hammer.
I tried to chase and later in the stage I started to claw my way back to the key group that included Valverde, Froome, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and others from Garmin-Sharp and Belkin. But every time I made some gain, there was a surge in the group.
I got close but Movistar, Saxo-Tinkoff, Garmin-Sharp and Belkin didn’t want me coming back, did they? It was a bit hard to work against four teams swapping off in the front group. And finally it became clear that no matter what, I just wasn’t going to make it up to the group. So, it was best to start thinking about saving energy to help Chris later in the tour.
I’ll be honest. What was going through my mind at the time wasn’t pleasant. But this sport throws up so many challenges. It’s why I love it.
Read Richie Porte’s exclusive daily Tour de France diary throughout the race, only through Fairfax Media.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.