Porte: Short, sharp Criterium du Dauphine stages suit me

Australian to test himself against Tour de France rivals

How to follow the Critérium du Dauphiné: Cyclingnews will have live text coverage from start to finish for every stage, as well as rider interviews, race reports, podcasts, video highlights and post-race analysis.

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) returns to racing at the Criterium du Dauphine this weekend as he steps up his preparations for the Tour de France.

The Australian's last outing ended in disappointed when he abandoned the Tour of Romandie in late April due to illness, but after a stint of training at home he is keen to test himself against a collection of his Tour rivals including Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).

"My form is starting to come together and it's been building nicely over the last few weeks," he told Cyclingnews from his home in Monaco.

"I've obviously had a slower start to the season but that was always part of the plan, but at Paris-Nice, and Catalunya, things went well enough given the form that I had. I've built up a really solid base and moved on from there.

"I got a bit sick but that's just one those things that can happen in the first part of the year. In hindsight it was actually pretty good because it gave me a month at home and gave me a strong training routine. I'm happy with where I'm at."

Porte was almost unstoppable in the first part of last season, winning a string of weeklong stage races in the first few months of 2015 before the wheels fell off in the Giro d'Italia. This season the approach has been steadier, more moderate even, as he finds his feet with his new team and the responsibilities of constantly leading.

He was second and won a stage in the Tour Down Under, third overall in Paris-Nice and fourth in Catalunya before his Romandie setback, but the Dauphine sees him enter a new and crucial part to his season. The weeklong race is his final dress rehearsal before the Tour de France in July, although he admits that the pressure is somewhat off his shoulders.

"The team's expectations are to go the Dauphine and target a stage. The goal posts might widen a bit more once we get to the race but I'm just looking forward to going there and testing myself against some of the big Tour favourites. It'll give me a chance to see where I'm at this stage.

"The short sharp stages are exciting and unpredictable but I think that they suit me pretty well. The first stage, with the prologue could be good for me too," added Porte. Stage 2 is the longest of the race at 182km with the last three mountains stages all under 151km in length.

Porte will go up against ex-teammates Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. He rode with the former at Team Sky and the pair remain good friends. In order to taste success at the Dauphine and then the Tour, however, Porte must beat his former squad and most likely Froome.

"It's not secret that we're mates off the bike but that's the same with all the Sky guys. It was family for me for so long but I'm happy with my choice to move to BMC and I'm taking my opportunities as they come," he told Cyclingnews.

Team Sky head into the race with arguably the strongest team in the race with Froome backed by Sergio Henao, Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski and Wout Poels.

"That's their Tour team with just Geraint Thomas to come in. They're the team to beat and it's going to best interesting. They don't have to just play the team card and that will make it a very difficult race." 

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