Porte feels fresh and fit

LAUNCESTON cyclist Richie Porte believes his illness-plagued preparation for next week's Tour de France could prove an advantage to both himself and reigning champion Chris Froome.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte

Porte was yesterday confirmed as the Brit's primary support rider and is convinced he is over the sickness which forced him to abandon four consecutive races earlier in the season and miss out on leading Team Sky's assault on the Giro d'Italia.

``It's not ideal to have missed all the racing that I did but if there's one thing that's of benefit, it's that I'll be going into the Tour much fresher this year than I was last year,'' he said.

``I'm better now. My weight is much better. I'm motivated toward the big goal, and I'm feeling good. I'm ready to go.''

After a three-week altitude camp in Tenerife, Porte and his teammates completed a three-day reconnoitre of the Tour's opening stages in Yorkshire before he returned to racing in the traditional lead-in Criterium du Dauphine, finishing 22nd with Froome 12th.

As expected, the 29-year-olds were both named in Sky's team for the 101st edition of the Tour de France along with Spaniards Mikel Nieve, David Laacópez and Xabier Zandio, Austrian Bernhard Eisel, Brit  Geraint Thomas, Vasil Kiryienka, of Belarus, and American Danny Pate, although there was no place for 2012 champion Brad Wiggins.

Having won the Tour of Oman and Romandie and held the yellow jersey for six of the eight stages of the Dauphine, Froome is hot favourite to secure his second Tour title, but the British-based team acknowledged the vital role Porte will play in his fourth-straight Tour.

``Regarded as one of the very best riders in the sport, Richie will be Chris Froome's main support rider - or super domestique - when the race hits the mountains,'' yesterday's Sky announcement said ahead of Saturday's Grand Daacépart in Leeds.

``A champion in his own right, having won prestigious races such as Paris-Nice and the Volta ao Algarve, Porte's job will be to set a fast pace for Froome on the climbs before thrusting his leader towards the summit.''

Last year's Paris-Nice champion is confident of a third straight Tour crown for his team, hopeful he can improve on last year's performance when he sat second behind Froome after eight stages and even optimistic of racing the Vuelta a Espana to make up for missing the Giro.

``The team that we send to the Tour this year, it's a lot stronger than what we had last year, so I'm hopeful that'll give me a better chance to take my own opportunities,'' Porte told Cycling Central. 

``The goal for us is to have such a strong team that we can both be at the pointy end of a Grand Tour, certainly the team that we have this year, I think we're closer to that than we ever have been.

``And then there's also the Vuelta afterward. I've got to get through the Tour, and it is hard to bounce back and do a good Vuelta also, but at the moment that's not something I'm ruling out.''

In the absence of last year's runner-up, Colombian Nairo Quintana, following his Giro victory, Porte named former Saxobank teammate and two-time champion Alberto Contador as Froome's biggest rival.

``You look at the Tour last year and the only guy that was climbing anywhere near Froomey consistently was Quintana and he's not going to be there. We're going to have a stronger team at this point in time than we've ever had.''

On the controversial subject of selecting Froome and/or Wiggins, Porte said: ``I get along well with both of them but I'm just happy I didn't have to make any of those decisions. 

``It's a hard one, and everybody has got their opinion on it. 

``Bradley is one of the biggest engines in world cycling and he has won the Tour before, but we've got our little group, which has ridden all these races together all year. 

``Whatever the outcome I'm confident we'll have such a strong team on the start line in Leeds it won't matter a whole lot. 

``There's not one guy in our Tour team that doesn't deserve to be there.''

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