Richie Porte (BMC Racing) has kicked off his expected rivalry at the Tour de France with Chris Froome and Team Sky by describing the British team’s data drop about Froome’s performance at the Giro d’Italia as “fake news”.
Porte rode for Team Sky between 2012 and 2015 and is good friends with Froome, despite clashing in major races. The two are expected to fight for overall victory at the Tour de France and are backed by arguably the two strongest teams in the peloton.
Porte again defended Froome concerning his salbutamol case but his growing rivalry with his former team was exposed when asked about the Team Sky data drop.
Team Sky gave the BBC access to a series of documents and data that apparently revealed how Froome lost weight during the first part of the Giro d’Italia, the calories he consumed and his power output on key stages, including his victories ride over the Colle delle Finestre when he took the pink jersey. The data was published two days after WADA dropped their investigation into Froome’s Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol
“I think it’s fake news,” Porte said dismissively. “I think they put it out there in the hope that people will under fuel. But we’re all pros, we know how to fuel, we don’t need to read online what Sky say they’re doing. We’ve been doing this long enough to know how to eat.”
Froome is attempting to complete a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double and Porte hopes that Froome’s Giro d’Italia victory will leave him tired in the final part of the Tour de France.
“It was nice to watch him win the Giro but I hope he’s buggered….” Porte said jokingly when asked about Froome’s chances. “I was with Alberto (Contador) in 2011, who crushed it at the Giro but then couldn’t back it up (at the Tour).
“Chris went to the Giro with a super strong team and comes here with arguably a stronger team. If anyone can do it, perhaps he can. I know that team, I rode there; he’s here with the goal of winning it. He’s done the work. I just hope he’s tired. Guys like Vincenzo (Nibali) and Nairo (Quintana) will never give him an easy time if he has a bad day.”
Porte knows this year’s Tour de France is wide open and has no plans to focus just on Froome.
“You can’t get transfixed on one guy,” he warned. “There are so many twists and turns in this Tour de France. I don’t think there’s a huge favourite for the overall. I was impressed by Jakob Fuglsang at the Tour de Suisse, and Geraint Thomas and Romain Bardet look strong too, while Movistar having three leaders is a tricky one. They need to use their options wisely, It’s hard having two leaders, who knows what it’s like with three.”
Better to be healthy than super lean
Porte has spent time at home with his recently born son since winning the Tour de Suisse. BMC Racing have selected the block of riders that helped Porte to victory and he appeared quietly confident at the team’s early morning press conference before heading out for a training ride.
“I had the humbling experience of changing nappies,” Porte said when asked what he had done since his Tour de Suisse victory.
“I was in good condition in Suisse and I’m hoping to be better. I was ill at the start of the season and so had a quiet start to the season but the team had faith in me, letting me train at home. I’ve lost more weight since Suisse and mentally I’m ready for this.
“I’m not sure if I’m at my lightest ever because the goal was not to come into the race on fumes. It’s important to feel fresh. In the first nine days, it’s not about weight, it’s better to be healthy.”
This is Porte’s eighth Tour de France. He finished fifth behind Froome in 2016 but crashed out last year on the final descent of stage 9 to Chambery. He fractured a collarbone and pelvis and only symbolically returned to racing at the Japan Cup race in October.
A strong team for a shot at victory
Like Froome and Vincenzo Nibali, Porte is now 33. He knows he is running out of chances to win the Tour de France.
“I’m not getting any younger. We have a super team here. The first nine stages are tricky but we’ve got the horsepower to get through them okay. I’ve had a great season so far and I’m super motivated for this Tour de France. I don’t hope for good luck, I just hope there’s no bad luck along the road,” he said, hoping that teammates Greg van Avermaet, Stefan Kung, Pat Bevin and Michael Schar can protect him on the early stages and on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles of stage 9.
Simon Gerrans will be a kind of road captain, with Damiano Caruso and Tejay van Garderen and there to help him in the mountains. Porte hopes to gain time on some of his overall rivals in the 35km stage 3 team time trial around Cholet thanks to BMC Racing’s skills against the clock
“Some of the guys here, people like Stefan Kung, are probably the best in the business in time trials, so that makes the TTT a stage where we can take time. Maybe one of us can even take the yellow jersey, which would be brilliant for the team, it’s never too early to take yellow,” Porte said.
“Schar is underrated on stages like we have in the first week and Greg’s not bad on cobbles… We’ve got all the bases covered. It’s the most nervous stage on paper for sure but we can turn it into a positive thing. Other GC guys don’t have the guys that we have for that stage.”