Porte defends change of race

 Launceston cycling star Richie Porte has defended the controversial decision to change his racing schedule this week, saying it is a logical move.

Porte is also looking forward to renewing his rivalry with compatriot Cadel Evans ahead of the May Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), where they will be two of the race favourites.

This week's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy will be the first time the pair have gone head-to- head since January's Australian road championships and the Tour Down Under.

Porte finished third behind winner Simon Gerrans and Evans at the nationals.

Porte (fourth) and Evans (runner-up) then also won stages at the Adelaide tour.

They have continued their strong early-season form in Europe, with Evans finishing seventh on Saturday at the Strade Bianche one-day race in Italy.

Porte was second last month at Ruta del Sol in Spain.

"It's nice to stoke up the rivalry again (with Evans)," Porte said yesterday.

"Last time I saw him was at Down Under, and he was in good condition there.

"Judging by yesterday in Strade Bianche, he's going to be competitive in Tirreno also."

On Friday, Porte's Sky team angered Paris-Nice organisers with the last-minute decision to take him out of the race.

Porte is the defending champion and the only Australian to win Paris-Nice, which starts today.

Instead, Porte will race from March 12 at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Sky made the decision when defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome pulled out of Tirreno-Adriatico with a back injury.

Porte will now lead the team in the Italian race.

"Obviously it would have been great to go back to Paris-Nice and try and defend the title but it's not a massive change," Porte said.

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