RISOUL: Richie Porte has been stricken by a chest infection in the Tour de France that leaves his hopes of finishing the race hinging on a daily assessment by his Sky team doctor.
The Tasmanian rider says his condition is not the same that impaired his early season preparation and led to him withdrawing from the Giro d’Italia before it began.
But his future in the race is in doubt, even though he wants finish the three-week race in Paris on Sunday.
“At the moment my aim is to finish the race, but the doctor wants me to take it day by day. Obviously, there is no point in absolutely killing myself to make it Paris,” Porte told Fairfax Media on Saturday after the 14th stage from Grenoble to Risoul – the second and last in the Alps for this year’s Tour – in which he lost more time overall.
Porte's illness first hit after stage five from the Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut that included cobblestones. He started coughing and felt a cold coming on.
After undergoing a program of antibiotics his illness apparently disappeared and Porte was confident that he could return to his best health.
But the illness returned in recent days to the point he sought medical attention for nausea from the race doctors during both of the two days of racing in the Alps - Friday’s 13th stage from Saint Etienne to Chamrousse and Saturday’s stage.
Porte has since started a second program of antibiotics, hoping that he will recover as the Tour heads to the Pyrenees where the first of three stages in the mountain range is on Tuesday.
As the Tour left the Alps, Porte was hoping that Sunday’s 15th stage from Tallard to Nimes – a stage suited for the sprinters – and Monday’s second rest day would offer some respite.
Whatever is Porte’s future in this year’s race, it is a frustrating way for it to unfold, especially in light of the opportunity to lead the Sky team.
Porte took over leadership from defending champion, Chris Froome when the Briton abandoned on stage five due to injuries from several crashes.
But in recent days Porte has lost time and surrendered any hope of making the podium.
After holding on to second place overall after 12 stages, he fell out of contention on stage 13 when he lost more than eight minutes, before surrendering more time on Saturday.
Porte was 27th in stage 14 at 5m 16s to winner Poland’s Rafa Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Majka won the stage that included two giant mountain passes – the Col du Lautaret and Col d’Izoard - with second placed Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 24 seconds behind and Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) a further two seconds back.
Nibali still leads the Tour convincingly. Heading into Sunday’s 15th stage, 222km from Tallard to Grenoble, his overall lead was 4m 37s on second placed Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and 4m 50s on Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r).
While Porte moved up a place from 15th, his deficit on Nibali had extended from 11m 11s before the start of stage 14 to 16m 03s going into stage 15.
However, Porte’s overall position in the Tour is the least of his concerns right now.
Regaining his health to reach the finish in Paris has taken over as his first objective.
The story Richie Porte's illness leaves Tour finish in doubt first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.