• Aussie Richie Porte is relishing his status as the No.1 rider for BMC at this year's Tour de France. (AAP)Source: AAP
BMC's Australian leader Richie Porte is the man to beat at next week's Tour Down Under, according to Orica-Scott team boss Matt White.
Source:
AAP
14 Jan 2017 - 11:48 AM  UPDATED 14 Jan 2017 - 11:56 AM

As the pre-race mind games proceed in Adelaide, Porte's BMC team director Fabio Baldato quickly laughed off the claim.

Orica-Scott's line-up will boast record four-time Tour winner Simon Gerrans and Colombian sensation Esteban Chaves, as well as sprint ace Caleb Ewan.

White reasons that as the Tour course becomes harder each year, it might be too tough this time for Gerrans.

The Orica-Scott boss expects the overall win to come down to Porte and his Colombian climbing rivals, Chaves and Sky's Sergio Henao.

Porte has finished runner-up at the last two Tours and has made no secret of his desire to claim the overall win.

"They're fooling nobody - he's the clear favourite, because he's had a better preparation than the other guys and being in Australia, it's an advantage," White told AAP.

"Don't write off Gerro, because of who he is, how hard he's worked and it's January, it's the Australian summer.

"If the racing is hard and tough and robust, it suits him."

When told of White's comments, Baldato immediately pointed to how seriously Orica-Scott treat their home WorldTour race.

"Richie is good, but for sure, they are the first team to watch," Baldato said.

"They're racing at home, they're always highly-motivated and well-organised in the race.

"He's a smart guy, Matt, and I need to watch him, for sure ... we all play the game.

"They have my respect because they always race well."

After Sunday's one-off Adelaide street race, the Tour will start next Tuesday and go through to Sunday.

World champion Peter Sagan is also competing and race director Mike Turtur says it is the strongest general classification field the Tour has boasted in its 19-year history.

While the second-last stage at Willunga will confirm the overall winner, as always, stage two on Wednesday is also particularly tough.

It runs from Stirling to a summit finish at Paracombe in the Adelaide Hills and features plenty of climbing.

White and Porte agree that it is set to have a dramatic effect on the general classification.

The difficulty of the Paracombe stage has White more pessimistic about Gerrans' chances.

"There's not too much for the in-between guys - this potentially could be four bunch sprints and two stages for climbers," White said.

"It's not the best Tour for his abilities ... the course doesn't suit him as well as previous years.

"But in saying that, he's still worked incredibly hard to be at a high level and don't write him off."