Portal: Banning power meters won't make a difference

Team Sky DS says Froome and Thomas can work together at Tour de France

Team Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal has said that banning power meters from racing will not change anything. The Frenchman said he understood the Tour de France organisation's desire to make racing more 'attractive' but added that there needed to be more discussion between all parties to achieve this.

Portal's comments came after Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme concluded the presentation of next year’s race route by reaffirming his belief that power meters should be eliminated from professional racing. The devices are ubiquitous in professional cycling but Portal says that riders know their bodies enough not to need them in racing.

"I don't think it will make any difference," Portal said following the presentation of the 2019 Tour de France route. "I consider myself an expert in cycling, it’s my world, but I’m not a race organiser. I don't want to make their decisions but I feel like every year there is something with the UCI or the race organisers. I understand that they want to make the racing attractive but sometimes it seems like there isn’t any discussion.

"If you don't have any power meter, it's fine. The only thing is that we don't have the data, so if we want to use it in training then we can't."

Portal cited the rule change this year of removing one rider per team, per race as another idea that didn’t have any effect on the racing. He said that there needed to be a bigger conversation between all the shareholders to make racing more exciting, and pointed to shorter stages as one way to do so.

"There are all these rules, like let's have one rider less on the team,” said Portal. "Right now, I still don't know why. Was it for the security, or something else? Basically, we won the Tour with only seven riders, because halfway through Gianni wasn't there, and of those seven riders two were our leaders. They weren't doing anything but we had to protect them. I don't think it was the right thing to do.

"I think they should understand how the riders race. I think they are a bit far from that. It's normal because that's not their job, but we should communicate with them. For example, when you do a really short stage, even if it is flat, it is hard to control. You can't do the whole Tour de France with short stages but they are hard to control for teams."

Portal was in Paris last week to witness the unveiling of next year's Tour de France route. What he saw was a race that was dominated by climbs over 2,000 metres, with three of the five summit finishes going above that level. Portal believes that it will suit Team Sky.

"It seems to me that it is a classic tour and there are some nice names in the climbs. I love the stage finishing on the Tourmalet. Altitude, I don't know if it is something that the race organisers wanted to do, but I think it is good because our guys respond really well to altitude and we are used to training at altitude. I think that this is a good point for us," said Portal.

Both of Team Sky's Grand Tour winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were also in Paris to see the route presentation. It remains to be seen if both riders will be there to ride the Tour de France, Thomas as the defending champion and Froome as a four-time winner in search of a record-equalling fifth. After a busy two seasons for the team, Portal says they need to take a step back from it all before making a decision. However, he doesn’t foresee any issues if the team chooses to take both riders to the Tour.

"I think both of them clearly want to go back to the Tour. We've only just finished the season in China. Chris has had the time to catch his breath a little. G is resting now, he's had some busy weeks. Not everybody is in the same situation right now. They need time to reflect, but it won't be a problem with the two of them there," Portal explained.

"The last couple of years have been crazy so I think it is good [to have a rest]. It has been pretty busy for the riders and the staff so I think we need to digest that and rest. The season has just finished a few days ago. There is no rush [to decide anything] because we believe that we have the quality in the staff and the riders. To do quality, sometimes, we need to be creative and if you’re tired then you can’t be creative so we need to rest a little bit and analyse."

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