France, Germany, Belgium gear up for Tour de France

Kristopher Drake
July 1, 2017

Porte is probably the strongest rider in the field and no Australian has been better placed to win the Tour since Cadel Evans made history with his 2011 triumph.

Despite numerous cycling achievements including two wins at Paris-Nice (2013 and '15), the 2015 Australian time trial title, the Volta ao Algarve (2012), Giro del Trentino (2015), Volta a Catalunya (2015) and this year's Tour Down Under and Tour de Romandie, the 32-year-old Tasmanian has unfinished business at Grand Tours. "Behind closed doors they think they have the guy to do it. It will be a Tour with a lot of movement, a lot of tactics".

Porte is 32, at the peak of his career, and he finished fifth previous year in the Tour. "This is without doubt the toughest challenge", he insists.

The Movistar pairing of Quintana and Valverde are probably the only other realistic chances to topple Froome, however, Valverde struggles when climbs go over 2000 metres in altitude, and Quintana finished second at the Giro just over a month ago. Swift is a cyclist in the mould of world champion Peter Sagan - a sprinter who can also climb - and may have to work especially hard for victory. I'm just going my way.

"He's the No.1 favourite with the No.1 saddlecloth and defending champ and he's won more Tours than anyone else racing", Porte said. In this Tour, we are going to have to improvise.

Porte revealed the nine-man team had trained for just about every scenario after being plagued by bad luck in recent years, most noticeably the disastrous stage two puncture in last year's Tour that cost him a podium spot.

An altitude camp after the Dauphine was followed by a few days at home before, as he puts it, "the madness begins".

If Froome brings that level of form to the Tour, Porte will beat him. That friendship seemed to fissure at the Dauphine when Porte felt he was abandoned by the likes of Froome, a move that cost him the overall victory to Jakob Fuglsang, but Froome downplays any rift. "I have been resting and training well since the Dauphine", he said. "He's climbing better than ever before".

Stage seven into Nuits-Saint-Georges offers the first real chance by which time we will know what Swift has in his legs.

Questions have been asked about Sky's credibility in the wake of an investigation by UK Anti-Doping into allegations of possible wrongdoing.

"We really didn't have to think too much about it - kind of a no-brainer between Richie and I to get this done", Ochowicz said. "Instead I saw Eddy Merckx with the yellow jersey on his shoulders", adds Prudhomme as he remembers some of the Tour greats.

Throw in the likes of last year's Vuelta a Espana victor Nairo Quintana, Spanish veteran and two-time former champion Alberto Contador, French hope Romain Bardet and Criterium du Dauphine victor Jakob Fuglsang, and a major battle is expected over the next three weeks.

The 104th Tour will finally reach France on the third day, another 200km-plus ride from Verviers to Longwy in the northern Meurthe-et-Moselle departement.

"And to think I thought they were warming to me because of my efforts to learn French and speak it in press conferences", he jokes.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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