Porte left behind in Tour opener
CYCLING: Australian Richie Porte is facing another daunting Tour de France catch-up mission, with the race's typically nervous opening days wreaking havoc on the peloton.
Almost 12 months to the day after a Stage 2 puncture cost him a podium spot in last year's Tour, Porte ceded 35 seconds to Chris Froome on a wet and slippery Stage 1 time trial.
While Porte's safety-first approach kept him upright on a day of carnage that saw Alejandro Valverde abandon and Luke Durbridge suffer ankle ligament damage, Porte is again facing a fight to claw back his chief rival.
The early stages of the Tour typically look benign on paper, but with a twitchy field of 198 riders desperate to impress, they present a danger that has ended many campaigns.
On an opening day of pouring rain, Porte sat in the BMC team car behind teammate Nicolas Roche to get some insight into how to handle the time trial. But he had the wind put up him when Roche was one of many to hit the bitumen.
"I was a little bit nervous, especially after watching your teammate crash. It kind of rattled me a little bit but at the end of the day I took no risks out there,” Porte said.
"I was a bit petrified to be honest. It was such a slippery course. Keep the rubber side down was probably more the goal.
I would have liked to have done a little bit quicker time but I think the main thing is to have kept all the skin intact today.
Valverde (Movistar), a dark horse for the title, slammed into the barriers and was withdrawn from the race. Durbridge (Orica-Scott) sustained ankle ligament damage.
Dylan Groenewegan (Lotto NL-Jumbo), Rick Zabel (Katusha), George Bennett (Lotto NL-Jumbo) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) all came off and Australian Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) was lucky to avoid a motorbike that had lost control.
But Froome kept the foot on the gas for a Sky outfit that had four riders in the top seven in an emphatic day one showing.
Roche, speaking before Porte conceded the upper hand to three-time Tour winner Froome, said the Aussie hope couldn't afford to do exactly that.
"I think when you're going for GC (general classification) every second is important,” Roche said.
"It's 14km, it's quite a long time trial and you can easily lose 30 or 40 seconds. We know there's not many mountain-top (finishes) in this Tour so it's very important to do a good TT today and in Marseille (Stage 20).”
While Porte faces a challenge to haul back Froome, he put time on just about every other contender.
Porte gained a second on Nairo Quintana (Movistar), four seconds on Romain Bardet (AG2R) and seven seconds on Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo).