THERE was a reversal of fortunes for the top Australian riders at the Tour on Sunday with Cadel Evans recovering from his worst-ever day but Richie Porte plummeting from second to 33rd overall.
Porte’s Sky teammate Chris Froome retained the yellow jersey but the Tasmanian paid for his brilliant performance on Saturday, finishing almost 18 minutes down on the road to Bagneres-de-Bigorre in the Pyrenees.
Sky had been hoping Porte, 28, would be able to finish on the podium in Paris alongside the race favourite.
But he lost contact on the second climb of the ninth stage – won by Garmin’s Irish rider Dan Martin – and never regained the lead group.
“Yesterday was my day but today was probably the worst day I have had on a bike all season,” Porte said after the finish.
“There are still another two weeks of the Tour so I will look forward to moving on.”
Porte praised Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde who moved up to second on the general classification (GC).
“He attacked so early and it takes a fair set of swingers to do that.
“It was a hard day for everybody.”
Kenyan-born Froome was understanding despite being isolated for much of the 168.5km stage and having to chase down Valverde and his Colombian teammate Nairo Quintana without help.
“It’s quite normal given all the work my teammates did for me yesterday that they were feeling it a bit this morning,” the 28-year-old said.
“They did an extremely big job yesterday to get me into the yellow jersey.
“They are human and they can’t keep doing that every day. Some days you can be there and some days you can’t. That’s bike racing.”
Sky workhorse Vasil Kiryienka missed the time cut on Sunday, meaning Porte will be even more vital when the Tour enters the Alps next week.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said it was a tough day for Sky but “thankfully Chris had the legs to look after himself”.
“Everybody who said the race was over will maybe be thinking twice again tonight,” he said.
Brailsford congratulated Garmin for making the race hard by sending multiple riders up the road from the outset.
BMC’s Evans finished sixth on the stage alongside the main GC contenders despite having to chase back on after a mechanical on the second climb.
It was a good recovery given on Saturday he lost over four minutes to Froome in what he claimed was his “worst day at the Tour while healthy”.
“A much better day,” Evans said after the ninth stage.
“You always have to keep your hopes alive. Quitting is not an option right now.”
The 36-year-old said Sunday was “bizarre” and he was surprised to see Sky struggle so much. Evans now sits 16th at 4:36 back.
Canberra’s Michael Rogers rode solidly in support of Saxo-Tinkoff leader Alberto Contador and finished the day 18th on GC at 6:14.
Fellow Australian Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) went on the attack on the penultimate climb up the Col de Val Louron-Azet in pursuit of polka-dot jersey points.
The winner of the mountains classification at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana now sits in 7th place in the Tour’s climbing competition. – AAP