Porte and Evans to battle on home soil

TASMANIAN star Richie Porte is happy to share equal billing with 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and see the upcoming Tour Down Under promoted as a head-to-head of Australian cycling greats.

Team Sky is sending a powerful squad to support the Paris-Nice winner in his home nation's only WorldTour event and Porte is ready for the responsibility.

``I want to go to Tour Down Under and perform,'' Porte said. ``As an Aussie, it's the race to win.

``It's great that there's interest from an Australian perspective with Cadel starting his season there, myself, Simon Gerrans and guys like that. I've been in Australia in the last month and you can see how big cycling is getting. People are really taking an interest.''

Since Evans claimed his Tour de France title, Porte has supported teammates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome to victories and is excited about locking horns with his compatriot in both the Tour Down Under and Giro d'Italia in 2014.

With the likes of Austrian veteran Bernhard Eisel, fellow Aussie Chris Sutton and Brits Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas to help him, the 28-year-old Tasmanian athlete of the year is optimistic of his chances in South Australia.

``It used to be a sprinter's race but now there are some good climbs in there like Corkscrew and Willunga,'' said Porte, who was this week flying home from a training camp in Spain. 

``I've spent a bit of time in Adelaide so I know the climbs pretty well. I think if I'm in good form and we have a strong team there, if not me then through Geraint Thomas, we also have a really good chance. He was brilliant there last season so it should be an interesting race.''

Race director Mike Turtur was delighted by the return of ``a phenomenal cyclist''.

``Cycling fans will be in for a treat with two of the best cyclists in the world set to battle it out for the ochre jersey,'' he said.

Sky race coach Kurt-Asle Arvesen said although it had been a few years since Porte last rode the race, he was very familiar with the key stages.

``Everyone is motivated and Geraint and Richie have a good chance of being up there,'' he said.

``It's a nice course and it looks like there will be two key stages again like last year for the GC. We need to be on our toes. We learned our lessons last year that we need to get out there well before the race. 

``That's what we're going to do this year. It's always a great way to start the season and we'll be more than ready for the race.''

The Tour Down Under covers six stages and 875 kilometres in and around Adelaide from January 19-26. 

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