Since claiming overall Tour Down Under victory in January, and an aggressive showing at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race a week later, Richie Porte has been training on home roads around Launceston in Tasmania with his eye on Tour de France success.
The BMC rider turned 32 the day after Australia's newest one-day race but there has been little celebration as Porte is firmly focused on the Tour podium and overturning his the bad luck from 2016.
"Cadel [Evans] was 34 when he won, [Bradley] Wiggins was 32, so this is the peak time for me when I have to perform," Porte told The Examiner of the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France champions. "I know I'm a genuine contender and without bad luck I can be on the podium.
"At the end of the day I'm just a kid from Tassie riding a bike who used to watch the Tour de France riders and now to be one of them over there doing it is amazing and a real privilege to be in that situation."
Having ridden in Sky's Tour de France winning teams of 2012, 2013, and 2015, Porte left the British team to pursue his own personal ambitions and signed with BMC. In his first attempt at Tour glory, Porte finished fifth at last year's Tour despite losing two minutes on stage 2 due to a mechanical. Further bad luck befell Porte at the Rio Olympic Games in August when he crashed and broke his shoulder, bringing his season to an early close.
Whereas last year Porte and Tejay van Garderen were BMC's co-captains for the Tour, Porte enjoyed a relaxed off-season in 2016 despite recovering from his injuries with his 2017 start to the season indicative of his form and mindset. Porte's bid for Tour glory has been assisted by BMC confirming he will be the sole leader for July and the team strengthened its GC squad around his aspirations while van Garderen targets the Giro d'Italia.
Porte clocked up 12,000 kilometres on his home roads over the off-season and expressed his gratitude for the team allowing him to get the most out of his training and prepare for his European campaign.
"The team know if I'm home I train better than at camps," he said. "The weather's better so it makes sense to stay there at the base of the Alps. I've got everything I need there and the team even send mechanics down which is great.
"If you are winning races and doing well you get a lot more say in what you do so I have more input in what's going to work for me and the team has been awesome in supporting me in that."
Porte will make his European racing debut at next week's La Provence before turning his attention to Paris-Nice. A race he has won on two previous occasions and where a victory would confirm his status as a genuine contender for the Tour.
"It's still the biggest race I've won so feels like my home event. It finishes so close to Monaco and one of the stages goes within five kilometres of home," he said of the race he won in 2013 and 2015.
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