The enforced absence of four-time champion Chris Froome has thrown this year's Tour de France wide open according to Richie Porte.
The Launceston 34-year-old, who will spearhead Trek-Segafredo's assault over 3460 kilometres beginning in Brussels on Sunday morning (Tastime), said Froome's withdrawal after suffering a broken pelvis in a training crash totally changes the race dynamic.
The further loss of last year's runner-up Tom Domoulin (Sunweb) with a knee injury only muddies the water further.
"One thing I do agree with all the journos about is that it's a much more open race than previous years," Porte told The Examiner.
"You never want to see what happened to Froomey happen to anybody and it really threw a spanner in the works for Ineos.
"He would have been the man to beat again. Domoulin the same as he was second last year and in the Giro.
"Without them the names are not quite as big."
In the absence of Froome, Team Ineos will be led by fellow Brit and defending champion Geraint Thomas with talented young Colombian Egan Bernal also a contender for the yellow jersey.
Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang, Adam Yates, Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran are other possible contenders.
"Nibali is coming from the Giro so you don't know how that will affect him," Porte said.
"G (Thomas) had a crash at Tour de Suisse but seems OK and in Bernal, Ineos have this wonder kid who seems to be able to do everything and being Columbian he will be good at altitude because they're all born at about 3000m.
"So it is wide open this year."
Porte leads an experienced team including Giulio Ciccone and Bauke Mollema fresh off a successful Giro d'Italia.
"I'm happy with the team," he said.
"There's some strong guys coming in from the Giro and some good classics riders."
- TOMORROW: In the last of our exclusive interviews, Richie Porte looks ahead to life after cycling.
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