Richie Porte eyes redemption a year on from Tour de France horror crash

first_imgWhen the 105th Tour de France begins on Saturday – a delayed start to minimise cross-over with the World Cup – 11 Australians will be on the start-line. But in the lead-up to the most prestigious cycling race in the world, as much domestic discussion has focused on one absent Australian as those who will be in France. While Richie Porte may be among the yellow jersey favourites and Michael Matthews will be hoping to defend his sprinter’s crown, controversy continues to rage over Australian-registered World Tour team Mitchelton-Scott’s decision to omit Caleb Ewan. Since you’re here… Share on Facebook Share on Messenger features Read more Reuse this content Caleb Ewan devastated after Tour de France snub Share via Email Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Chris Froome eager to ‘move on to bike racing again’ at Tour de France Cyclingcenter_img Tour de France Share on LinkedIn With the sprinter missing, the Australian focus on the road will centre around Porte. A long-time support player for Chris Froome, since leaving Team Sky Porte has had several chances to contest the yellow jersey in his own right. A fifth-place finish in 2016 showed promise, and the Tasmanian was well-positioned last year when a horror crash prematurely ended his campaign. At 33, Porte knows that opportunities to become only the second Australian Tour de France winner are diminishing. The BMC Racing Team rider heads to the Vendée with a strong team, including Australian veteran Simon Gerrans, and in good form; Porte won the Tour de Suisse in June. His primary rival will be Froome, who is currently reigning Tour, Giro and Vuelta champion. But a cloud lingers over the Sky icon – he was on Monday cleared by the UCI in an anti-doping investigation – and his Giro exertions may have negatively impacted his preparations. The usual suspects Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali will also be hunting for general classification success, while Yates and Mikel Landa could offer fireworks. The Tour attendance of another yellow jersey challenger, Tom Dumoulin, threatens to overshadow Matthews’ sprint classification defence. The Canberran puncheur was a green jersey victor last year following a sterling display of perseverance, but may find his Team Sunweb colleagues are preoccupied in support of Dumoulin in 2018. Even if that is the case, Matthews will still target particular stages. While a victory or two would not be unexpected, he faces stiff competition from the likes of Peter Sagan and Fernando Gaviria. Among the other Australians in France, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Michael Hepburn and Damien Howson offer support for Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Mark Renshaw will be performing his usual lead-out role for Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Heinrich Haussler adds depth for Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Simon Clarke will be hoping to improve team-mate Rigoberto Uran’s second place finish of last year (EF Education First-Drapac) and Rory Sutherland makes his Tour debut (UAE Team Emirates). The 11 countrymen rolling out from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île on Saturday is just one short of the record: 12 Australians contested the 2012 edition. That year was a memorable Tour for Australia, seeing an Australian-registered team contest the Tour for the first time, just 12 months after Cadel Evans had become the first Australian to win the prestigious maillot jaune. With numerous cards in the latest Tour de France deck – including Porte or Mitchelton-Scott for general classification and Matthews defending his green jersey – 2018 could prove to be another special year for Australian cycling. Australia sport Ewan, 23, has long been touted as Australia’s best young sprinter, a rider with the potential to match the achievements of Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady. Almost 30 professional wins, including stage victories at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, have vindicated this hype. When Mitchelton-Scott announced in December that Ewan would make his Tour debut in 2018, the timing seemed right. Two weeks ago, the team dropped a bombshell. Despite Ewan’s entire 2018 campaign to date being one long warm-up for the Tour, he was not in Mitchelton-Scott’s final eight-rider squad. Instead, the team – who came agonisingly close to their first Grand Tour victory in May with Simon Yates at the Giro – would be putting all their support behind his brother Adam Yates. The Briton finished fourth at the Tour in 2016 to win the young rider’s jersey and is certainly among the contenders this year. But Mitchelton-Scott’s treatment of Ewan has not been well-received in Australian cycling circles. “Devastated is an understatement,” the New South Welshman tweeted. Given his team’s public announcement six months prior, and Ewan’s reasonable (if not spectacular) form in the early season, his omission is puzzling. It had been reported that Ewan was looking for a move elsewhere once his contract concluded this season, indicating that personal politics may have played a part. Or, having come so close yet so far to the pink jersey in May, the form of Yates may have convinced Mitchelton-Scott to fully commit to the general classification fight; sports director Matt White suggested as much recently. Either way the decision is perplexing and will almost certainly see Ewan’s time with the Australian team end on a sour note. Read more Topics Share on Twitter Read more Mark Cavendish: ‘I’m not scared but I think of the consequences more’ Share on WhatsApplast_img