Australia’s Team Sky rider Richie Porte broke clear to win the fifth stage of the Paris-Nice race at the mountaintop finish on La Montagne de Lure on Friday and seize the overall lead.
Porte attacked on the final kilometer of the 176km ride from Chateauneauf-du-Pape to finish 26 seconds ahead of Russian veteran Denis Menchov, with Andrew Talansky of the US in third.
Talansky had tried to make an attack of his own inside the final 3km, but was soon overtaken by Porte as the finish line, at an altitude of 1600m, approached.
He loses the overall leader’s yellow jersey to Porte in the process.
Hoping to become the first Australian to win the race, Porte is now 32 seconds ahead of Talansky in the general classification, with Dutchman Lieuwe Westra a further 10 seconds back.
“I had bad memories of Paris-Nice,” Porte said. “Three years ago, my sporting director told me I was too heavy for a cyclist, last year I fell, but today I’ve won the stage and it is exceptional.”
Porte added that he was surprised to see Talansky attack when he did, and is now eyeing overall victory with today’s closing time trial on the Col-d’Eze potentially playing into his hands.
“It is my specialty, and I know the climb off by heart, but I am not getting carried away,” he said.
If he does hold on to claim overall victory, Porte will follow in the footsteps of teammate Bradley Wiggins, who won last year’s Paris-Nice before going on to win the Tour de France.
However, before he has even done that, the 28-year-old Tasmanian is already looking to the future.
Porte’s successful day was in stark contrast to that of his compatriot, Simon Gerrans, who did not start the stage due to breathing problems.
Yesterday’s penultimate stage was a 220km ride from Manosque to Nice, before the “Race to the Sun” concludes today.
Slovakian star Peter Sagan held off sprint ace Mark Cavendish to win the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico over 190km from Indicatore to Narni Scalo on Friday.
With former world champion Cavendish on his wheel, Sagan attacked from well back and reeled in Andre Greipel to claim the victory.
Race leader Cavendish left his attack too late, while a fading Greipel took third on the stage.
Sagan praised his team’s tactics on the stage.
“We made the stage hard to wear out the sprinters. My teammates were great on the final climb and the contenders paid for their efforts on the final straight,” he said. “I beat the best sprinters of the peloton and this is a great satisfaction. My goal for the ‘Tirreno’ is reached, now we’ll see day by day.”
A series of attacks in the final 15km in wet conditions forced up the pace as the sprinters’ teams accelerated to control the action.
No one could get away for very long and as the stage drew to a close, Greipel seemed ideally placed, while Cavendish found himself a long way back.
Greipel led until the final 50m, but while Sagan timed his charge to perfection, Cavendish left himself just a little bit too much to do.
Australian Matthew Goss, who won Thursday’s second stage, could manage only fifth on the day, behind German Gerald Ciolek in fourth.
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