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Richie Porte (Saxo Bank Sungard)
Tasmanian says Contador is ready to defend Tour crown
For the first time this season, Saxo Bank SunGard's Richie Porte is feeling healthy, having banished his troublesome allergies which dogged the early part of his season. Ahead of his debut at the Tour de France, the Tasmanian says he "pretty psyched."
"I had two weeks there where I was in the post-Grand Tour ‘mood' but after that two weeks the body starts to recover and now I feel better than before I went into the Giro," the 26-year-old told Cyclingnews. "I'm much stronger than what I was before."
The decision to start Porte in the Giro had been last minute but it was all in aid of giving the talented Australian more experience at the highest level. Sure, the results were very different to the 2010 edition where Porte wore the maglia rosa for three days and went home as winner of the young rider classification and maintained a position in the top 10 of the general classification for the entire duration of the race, but the decision has given him a certain confident heading into his third Grand Tour.
"It was an honour to ride in a winning team," Porte said. "Guys go through their whole career without having to do that. It's an enjoyable experience to ride for Alberto [Contador]. He's the best stage racer of his generation and he's happy for you when you ride for him."
Porte's preparation for the Tour has been all about keeping fresh, both in body and in mind, splitting his training between the French Alps, doing what he calls "mindless climbing" at altitude and around his home in Monaco.
While there have been some question marks over Porte's teammate, defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador's ability to string two Grand Tour wins together, particularly given the taxing parcours of the Giro, the Tasmanian dismisses the idea that it will be a tired Saxo Bank team that rolls up in Vendee.
"I know guys who rode the Dauphine and the Tour de Suisse and they were hard races too," Porte countered. "They are probably on the back foot a little bit compared to us. We've had a month to recover. Alberto was just second and third in Nationals, while it's totally different to a Grand Tour, it's Alberto Contador, I think he's ready for a good Tour."
Much like his Giro campaign, Porte's focus at the Tour de France will be on assisting Contador, especially in the mountains. The Australian is hoping to be of more use than he was in May's race, mixing it up with Spaniards Jesus Hernandez and Daniel Navarro, which Porte describes as "a tight unit."
However, while there's not much room for solo heroics, Porte's hoping to put in a strong performance during the Grenoble time trial, on the Tour's penultimate day. It's a situation that irks him somewhat.
"The thing is, I don't really see myself as a pure time trialist which is what the results suggest," he explained. Porte finished just 43 seconds down on winner, David Millar (Sky Procycling) at the Milan time trial at the Giro.
Despite this, Porte doesn't deny he's eyeing yet another impressive result in Grenoble.
"I've done the parcours in Grenoble and it's really very hard and it comes off the back of some hard mountain stages," he said. "It suits me a lot more than what the Milan one did and my condition is a lot better going into this once so I'll just see what happens. It's going to be hard to have personal opportunities but I think that one is always going to be a goal for me."