Cadel Evans backing Richie Porte for 2017 Tour de France success

The 2017 form of Richie Porte has seen the BMC rider firm as a bona fide Tour de France contender and 2011 champion Cadel Evans believes in the yellow jersey chances of his Australian compatriot.

"I don't think the team has ever looked so solid and I think this year Richie has proven himself again. Both Richie and the team around him are looking strong and very solid. I think they have a fantastic opportunity for themselves this July," Evans told Cyclingnews in a phone interview.

In his first outright attempt at racing for the yellow jersey, Porte was fifth overall in Paris last year. He previously rode in Sky's 2012 and 2013 Tour-winning teams, playing an instrumental role on both occasions.

In the lead up to his 2011 Tour victory, Evans won Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Romandie and finished second overall at the Criterium du Dauphine with BMC. In comparison, Porte started his season by winning the Tour Down Under, won a stage at Paris-Nice, before going on to win the Tour de Romandie and also finish second at the Dauphine.

Assessing the first half of Porte's season and preparation for the Tour de France, Evans told Cyclingnews he sees parallels between his Tour winning year and Porte's 2017.

"I think he was quite well prepared at Paris-Nice but there was a little strategic error rather than the fact that he wasn't good enough to get a better result there," he said of the race where Porte's GC hopes were blown away in the crosswinds.

"I think he was performing well also in that period of the year with Paris-Nice and Tirreno, of course, being raced at the same time. My only concern for Richie would be that he spent a lot of energy in Australia in January. But as long as that is carefully managed, then, of course, Richie doesn't go for the Ardennes classics so he saved some energy there. Otherwise, it is looking very solid but most of all I see Richie riding very confidently. As is the team around him."

While Evans' run into the 2011 Tour featured few obstacles, Porte has had to deal with two major setbacks. However, at Paris-Nice he rode away for a final stage win atop Col de la Couillole to salvage his race. Despite being 'assassinated', as Robert Millar wrote for Cyclingnews, on the final Dauphine stage, Porte outclimbed his major rivals and lost the race due to the ten bonus seconds on the line.

Assessing the events of Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine, Evans explained Porte and BMC would take away just as much as his GC wins in 2017 and will be better prepared for the Tour as a result.

"I think looking toward July they are actually blessings in disguise. Coming second at Dauphine is still a great result, and the lessons learned from Paris-Nice will be important," he said.

Although at the Dauphine three-time Tour champion Chris Froome was far from his impervious best that has seen him claim 12 general classification victories since 2013, Evans expects the three-time winner to be a force in July.

"I suspect Froome is going to make some big improvement between the Dauphine and the Tour. I think Chris will be at another level but certainly for Richie to be in front of those guys is great for his experience and certainly for the team as well to have a dress rehearsal at the Dauphine," said Evans.

Of the favourite general classification riders to win the Tour, Evans states "Froome is still the rider is still the rider to beat". He also namechecked Movistar's Alejandro Valverde as a potential darkhorse and suggested the Spaniard's teammate Nairo Quintana will struggle post-Giro d'Italia.

"I am quite interested in seeing what Valverde does. I know he is not young, but he has a lot of experience and doesn't seem to be fading much with age. So I am interested in seeing what Alejandro does, he is going to have a very good team around him in the mountains which could be crucial in that third week," he said.

"Honestly, I think the guys who come from the Giro are going to be fatigued in the third week and will pay for that at the Tour. If not before."

Porte's final troubles at the Criterium du Dauphine were largely seen to have stemmed from the lack of a strong team. BMC has announced its team in support of Porte at the Tour, naming two riders who were instrumental in Evans' 2011 win. Michael Schar and Amael Moinard.

Although Brent Bookwalter, and Manuel Quinziato from the 2011 squad were not selected for 2017, Evans believes the BMC team can deliver Porte into yellow on July 23.

"They have been there before, they know how to win a Tour, they know how to lose a Tour," Evans said of his former teammates. "There aren't many guys around who know how to win a Tour so to have those guys around you is absolutely key. Hopefully, for Richie, they are an enormous help for him. They are all good friends of mine, so I always hope that they are there and having the best of success for themselves and the team overall."

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