Porte: Froome is the strongest but it doesn't psych me out

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) maintains that while he has respect and a long-standing friendship with Chris Froome (Team Sky), he is ready to lock horns with him at the Tour de France next season.

The pair raced together at Team Sky with Porte playing instrumental roles in Froome's wins in 2013 and 2015. The Australian's departure to BMC Racing at the start of 2016 saw them clash on the road, and although Porte finished a distant fifth to Froome in July, he has stressed that his former team's superiority does not affect him.

"I'm not psyched out by it at all. Obviously they were fantastic this year and Chris threw a bit of a curve ball at the Tour with that attack on the descent but no one was really expecting that. That's the thing with Sky, they don't just want to smash it on the mountains. Froome will attack in the cross-winds with Geraint Thomas as well. It's not the predictable team that everyone thought it was."

Porte was speaking to Cyclingnews at BMC Racing's recent training camp in Denia, Spain where the team confirmed that the 31-year-old would lead their Tour de France challenge in 2017.

This year Porte lost time in the first week due an untimely puncture, however he was one of the strongest riders in the mountains during the second and third weeks. The 5:17 deficit between Froome and Porte this year, however, underlined the Team Sky rider's dominance. How does a rider who rode in Froome's shadow try and usurp the current champion?

"I guess that's a question everyone is thinking about," he said. "I read recently that Steven de Jongh said that there was a tactical weakness but to be honest I'm not too sure. It was a very different team that they had at the Tour when compared to the one that was at the Vuelta and there's no denying that Froome is the Grand Tour rider of his generation. He's physically and mentally the strongest and the team behind him is hard to beat.

"They have guys like coach Tim Kerrison who is maybe the most underrated guy in that organisation. I spent four years there and it's a good team but so is BMC. All the teams have had to raise their bar because of Sky. There's motivation here in itself and at Sky, their secret is that they all get along so well. For me, that was the biggest thing with that team."

Porte and Froome reside close to each other on the south coast of France, and they still occasionally train together. As he explains, friends off the bike can be rivals on it.

"We're still good friends off the bike," Porte said. "One thing that's disappointing is that people still say I'm riding for Team Sky but that's totally ridiculous. If you want to ride the Tour, if you want to attack you have to ride at the front. It doesn't matter that Froome is sitting in my wheel. He's got the jersey and no onus to ride."

Away from Froome and the Tour de France Porte has further ambitions. This year he won a stage at the Tour Down Under in January but it remained his sole triumph. In 2017 the Tour Down Under remains a huge focus but the BMC leader will also be hunting wins on a more consistent basis.

"I'd like to go into the Tour with more wins than I did this year. Being Australian, I'd love to win the Tour Down Under," he said. "Then there's races like Paris-Nice and Romandie. I've not won there and with this being a Swiss team, I'd love to do well there. I'm guessing I'll also do Pays Basque."

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