Ochowicz: Paris-Nice will give a clearer indication of Porte's form

'He's improved a lot in the year he's been with us' says BMC manager

No rider has ever won the Tour Down Under and the Tour de France in the same season. In fact no rider has ever won the Tour Down Under and even stood on the podium at the Tour but BMC Racing are looking to make history in 2017 after Richie Porte clinched his first Down Under title at the weekend.

The Australian, who is targeting the Tour de France this July, looked leaner than ever at his home race but his BMC Racing team admit that they will only get a truer picture of his form once he returns to racing in Europe.

Porte is the first of the Tour de France contenders to show his hand this year. Defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) made his debut at the Cadel Evans Criterium on Thursday but will be tested further on Sunday at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and at the Herald Sun Tour next week, when he goes up against another possible Tour hopeful in Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott).

"You can't make an accurate prediction when it comes to Richie and the others," BMC's Jim Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.

"I think they're [ed. his rivals] are probably more worried about what level they are against him at the moment because he's the one performing and getting results. Until they race head-to-head you can't really put a number or definition on it. His competition will show up, and it's more likely to be at Paris-Nice."

Porte, twice a winner at Paris-Nice, will once again head to the race this March. He is likely to clash with another Tour contender in Alberto Contador, while Froome skips the race to focus on a training camp in South Africa. The Briton is set to make his European debut at the Volta a Catalunya later in March.

However, Ochowicz, who signed Porte to challenge for the Tour de France, was greatly encouraged by what he witnessed at the Tour Down Under.

"We've got a full season, plus more, under our belts now because this is the second time that he's done this race. It's an improvement in terms of placing and even a better performance at Willunga Hill. I think he's improved a lot in the year he's been with us.

"I couldn't ask for a better start to the year. It doesn't get any better. On paper we know what we want to do. It's going to ebb and flow a bit depending on his health, the races he does and the conditions we'll race under but he's going to leave this race, go to Cadels and then head to Europe for the European campaign."

And Ochowicz was not worried with the Tour Down Under omen. The previous winners roll of honour at the race is dominated by sprinters and one-day specialists, but BMC Racing are confident that Porte can peak at several points in the season.

"If it was someone else, then maybe we'd be concerned but as an Australian racing in your own country, I think all the Australians here are good and are striving for a good performance. I'm not worried about that. It's an easy thing to think about but when you watch NFL football, you had better win the opening weekend if you want to be at the Super Bowl. You've got to be good all year."

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