Richie Porte celebrates after crossing the finish line to win stage five of the 2018 Tour Down Under on January 20 in Adelaide. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
Richie Porte celebrates after crossing the finish line to win stage five of the 2018 Tour Down Under on January 20 in Adelaide. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Porte tipped to give Grand Tour a shake

RITCHIE Porte sees the Vuelta a Espana as a chance to redeem himself after his disastrous crash in Stage 9 of the Tour de France - he wants to make amends, "that's for sure."

SBS sports commentator Michael Tomalaris believes we may be celebrating an Aussie rider in the maillot rojo (red jersey) come the final-day ride into Madrid, a feat never before achieved by an antipodean.

After Porte's dramatic exit from the Tour de France in 2017 with a fractured pelvis, broken collarbone and extensive abrasions, and again last month with a broken collarbone, it seems the rider predicted to take on Cadel Evan's slipstream cannot take a trick.

Tomalaris said Porte, 33, has since picked up his shattered dreams and is determined to achieve a place on the podium at the Vuelta a Espana. The third of the three cycling Grand Tours, it has 22 teams racing for 3271.4km across 21 stages in Spain.

He said a recovered Porte would be leading team BMC in the race, which had nine summit finishes.

"I reckon Porte will be in with a good chance, (even though) he's not won anything when it comes to Grand Tour level, he's not ever won a stage or got into the leader's jersey," Tomalaris said.

"I'm sure he thought 2018 was his year, then it all went pear-shaped. I think he must have been nervous before he crashed on the cobbles."

Tomalaris said Porte, who also has been selected for the Australian men's cycling team to compete at the UCI World Championships next month, had a stratospherically high level of fitness and was right for the Vuelta.

"He was in tip-top shape leading up to the Tour de France and his legs will be fresh," he said.

"Ritchie has been dogged by bad luck, so this race is a chance to redeem and prove himself."

Having spoken Porte after the 33-year-old's latest crash, Tomalaris thinks the Tasmanian is ready for the race of his life.

"The Vuelta is no consolation prize for not winning the Tour de France, it will be a ripper of a race," he said.

"But perhaps Ritchie's ultimate goal is the World Championships later this year - I think he might have more chance at winning a rainbow (world champion) jersey."

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and his Sky teammate Chris Froome will skip the event to ride the Tour of Britain.

Other riders to watch:

Fabio Aru - The Italian champion, 28, won this event in 2015 riding for UAE Team Emirates and skipped this year's Tour de france. "He will have fresh legs and is very motivated," Tomalaris says.

Vincenzo Nibali - A fan's camera strap caused him to crash in this year's TdF on the stage to Alpe d'Huez, but the Italian Bahrain-Merida rider, 33, finished the stage and climbed to fourth on GC. He was later diagnosed with a fractured vertebra.

Nario Qunitana - Won the GC in this race in 2016, but Tomalaris feels the 28-year-old Columbian's "best days may behind him, despite winning the 17th stage in the 2018 Tour de France and coming 10th overall".

Michael Woods - The 31-year-old Canadian rides with team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale. He came seventh in the 2017 Vuelta. "Don't discount him," Tomalaris says.

Peter Sagan - The Bora-Hansgrohe rider, 28, last rode the event in 2015, when he crashed at speed after being clipped by a motorbike.

Simon Yates - He's with Mitchelton-Scott and is aged 26. "He's a possibility as he had a good Giro d'Italia and he will be supported by his brother Adam, who had a good Tour (de France)," Tomalaris says.