Porte recharged and relaxed ahead of Romandie defence

Early-season troubles a 'blessing in disguise' for Australian

Riche Porte (BMC Racing) will look to kick-start his season at the Tour de Romandie this week. The Australian has only picked up one win this season - a stage of the Tour Down Under - and has been short of his usual week-long racing prowess, especially in comparison to last year.

Illness has certainly hampered his spring, and he was forced to sit out Tirreno-Adriatico with flu. He returned in time for the Vuelta al Pais Vasco but, by his own admission, took 'an absolute kicking' on his way to abandoning on stage 6.

Romandie provides the Australian with a clean slate, and the chance to defend his crown against a strong field that includes Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).

"I really don't know where I'm at form-wise. I got sick, and then I missed Tirreno. Then I went to Pais Vasco and got an absolute kicking there. It would be nice to repay the kicking to some of those guys, but it's a different style of racing. The first race I ever won as a professional was here in 2010, and of course, I'd like to show that I'm back for July," Porte told the media at his pre-race press conference on Monday evening.

"It's one of those races that has the prestige. There's no GC guy that wouldn't want to win the race. We know what we're here for but don't rule out Rohan Dennis. He's here and he's angry. This is a fantastic race to win."

At this stage last year Porte was in the midst of a purple patch. He had won a stage and the overall at the Tour Down Under, picked off a stage in Paris-Nice, won Romandie, and then finished second - and won a stage - at the Criterium du Dauphine. He looked on course to be Chris Froome's most dangerous opposition at the Tour de France until a crash on the descent of the Mont du Chat ruled him out of the race.

This time around Porte lacks the results but he appeared relaxed - confident even - about turning the ship around ahead of July.

"It's nice to be in the position I'm in," he said. "Of course, it was nice to win races like I did last year with Tour Down Under. This year I came back from Australia and got sick, so I wasn't flying at a Paris-Nice or another race but having the time off has been a bit of a blessing in disguise.

"Of course, having flu isn't a blessing but I find myself in a position I've not been in before. Missing those races, and watching the guys at Paris-Nice then get sick, I think mentally I'm a bit more recharged."

BMC Racing come into Romandie with three strong cards to play for the overall classification. As well as Porte, they have Rohan Dennis and Tejay van Garderen in their deck. Dennis, who is targeting the Giro d'Italia later this month, is a favourite for Romandie's opening prologue, although Porte remains the focal point with the race set to be decided in the mountains.

The team also arrive in Switzerland looking to put in a performance for their late founder, Andy Rihs, who died earlier this month. The team's long-term future has yet to be decided, and while Tuesday's conference was nor the time nor the place to ask about contractual matters, Porte added that the team would be racing to make their former boss proud.

"We're coming here with a strong team. Tejay is in strong form, and Rohan Dennis is in super form as well. Also with the death of Andy last week, we're all so motivated to do something for his spirit. That's also a big goal," Porte said.

"Andy would have liked us to just get on with it. He put his own money into cycling, and he never expected praise for it. He just wanted to crack on with things and that's all we can do really. If we can defend the race, and show good BMC fighting spirit, then he would be proud of us."

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