Richie Porte of team Saxo Bank secured the white jersey of best young rider at the Giro d’Italia today in Tonale. The 25-year-old Australian passed over the race’s highest point, the 2618-metre Gavia pass, and onto the finish still with enough time on his nearest rival to see him through tomorrow’s final stage.
His own high point of the Giro d’Italia was wearing the overall leader’s pink jersey for three days in the second week, the classification that Ivan Basso will likely win tomorrow. Porte fought back diarrhoea and fever in those days and used his consistency to remain in the lead of the young riders’ classification.
“Wearing the pink jersey was huge, but my health was pretty bad so I did not really get to enjoy it,” Porte told Cycling Weekly. “Still, it was great just riding through little towns where people are so pumped for cycling. For an Australian, that is the biggest eye-opener.”
Porte grew up in Tasmania surfing and competing in triathlons. He switched to road racing relatively late, but still moved to Italy to try to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional racer.
With the help of Stuart O’Grady and Brett Lancaster, he made his debut as a professional with Saxo Bank at the start of this year. He impressed the team immediately by winning the time trial at the Tour of Romandy last month.
“He arrived here virtually unknown, from another world,” Giro d’Italia’s director, Angelo Zomegnan told Cycling Weekly.
“He landed the pink jersey because he always raced at the head of the race. He was not just lucky, he was there from the beginning: he did a good time trial in Amsterdam, he was in front during the windy stages, he had a good team in Cuneo, he was in front in Montalcino, he was not so bad on Terminillo.
“I think Porte is totally different. He is an intelligent guy, he has a good body build.”
Porte is 6’41″ ahead of the next best young rider, Robert Kiserlovski (Liquigas-Doimo), ahead of tomorrow’s 15-kilometre time trial. He moved up from seventh to sixth overall in the general classification today, jumping over 2008 Tour de France winner, Carlos Sastre, and he hopes that tomorrow he can secure this place in the overall classification.
He is unsure, though, if in the next years he can become the first Australian to win a Grand Tour: the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España.
“Maybe it will be possible in the future, after I have more time within this team,” Porte continued. “Look what I have been turned into in just five months, so in another two years, who knows.”
Giro d’Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
2010 Giro d’Italia coverage in association with Zipvit