Tour de France: Porte determined to put Giro setback behind him

Richie Porte rates the first nine days of the Tour de France that starts on Saturday as "probably as stressful a nine days you are going to get ever for the start of the Tour."

The Australian said he believes that not only will the stages through the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France be dangerous for the narrow farm roads, hills and - on stage four - cobbles; but that the tension will mount leading up to the stage nine team time trial by which time some teams may have lost riders.

Porte said this week that he was confident he and the Sky team behind British 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome will fare well in the 28 team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec, even though the British team has disappointed in their last two team time trials - at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Giro d'Italia that was Porte's last race.

Porte was Sky's leader for the Giro and expectations were high for him after an early season highlighted with nine wins. But he withdrew from the race with six days to go due to injuries sustained in a crash with 3.3km to go in the 13th stage to Jesolo

Asked about the Tour team time trial being so late in the race, Porte, 30, told Cyclingnews: "Obviously we have done a lot of team time trials this year and through the years, but I have never done one so late into a Grand Tour. We have all these tricky stages to get through first … then the team time trial is another stressful day.

"It just doesn't stop does it … you have stages three, five and then nine and everything else in between. It is going to make for incredible television viewing but for us … but as it stands on paper, we are probably one of the better teams."

What Porte expects from the stage one time trial …

With the Tour starting with a 13.8km time trial in Utrecht, Porte would like to think that some calm might exist in the peloton for Sunday's second stage from Utrecht to Zeeland because the time trial will provide an early general classification. But as Porte says: "I very much doubt it. Any race [in north Europe] is absolute carnage."

The Tasmanian is looking forward to Saturday's race against the clock, especially as it provides another opportunity to wear the Australian time trial champion's colours.

"It is always full gas. You are always going to give one hundred per cent especially being the Aussie time trial champion … you want to give it your best," said Porte. "I have seen the course on video. It's quite a power man's sort of course for Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) or somebody like that."

Porte said he has fully recovered since his withdrawal from the Giro that was already problem stricken before injuring his hip and knee in the stage 13 crash; one set back being a two-minute penalty for taking an illegal wheel change from Australian Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) when he flatted near the finish of stage 10.

"It's been pretty low key," Porte said of his pathway back to Tour form. "I've spent a bit of time in the UK and at home [in Monaco]. I am where I need to be to be supporting Chris in this Tour."

Porte dismissed the suggestion that there was any doubt about racing in the Tour.

"No ... definitely it was on the cards. The only doubt was in the media, but that is their job," he said. "From the team's point of view and my point of view that was the plan at the end of last year when we did the race program … doing the Giro and Tour."

With what awaits in the Tour, Pore reflects on the team's decision that he leave the Giro on the second rest day as wise. "It was good to pull out of that tour with one week to go," he said. "That is another week of recovery that I have had in between."

Moving on from his Giro d'Italia set back …

Although, as Porte also told The Sydney Morning Herald, returning to a good state in mind and body was not that easy.

"It took me a couple of weeks after the Giro to get going again," Porte said. "Obviously, physically and mentally I was in a bad way … It was terribly disappointing. My year up until that point had been a very good season, but certainly I think I had my fair share of bad luck in that Giro.

"In some ways people are questioning where I am at, but my Giro was blown apart or ruined by bits and pieces of bad luck and ultimately the crash. That's what ultimately finished me off. It's one of those things … you can dwell on it can't you …"

And Porte told the Sydney newspaper, he will not "dwell on it" at the Tour either.

"It's the Tour isn't it?" he said. "Once you get into it, it is always going to be exciting."

Porte also said that he is not going into the three week race thinking that he may have to be ready to be Sky's 'Plan B' as he became in last year's Tour when Froome quit the race on stage five from injuries sustained in three crashes in two days.

"No … It's all for Chris. If there is a disaster, but we will cross that bridge when it comes, but it's all one hundred per cent for Chris. Of course, it is going to play on his mind a little bit. But all you can do is stay at the front of the race to minimise the risk of crashing.

"At the end of the day, that [crashing] can happen to anybody. That can happen to Vincenzo Nibali. It can happen to Alberto Contador or Nairo Quintana."

Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media) 

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