Speaking at a pre-race press conference in Dusseldorf, Germany on Wednesday, Porte was unaffected and threw back sentiment from the outfit that he is, in a career second title tilt, the preeminent favourite going in.
“They would know wouldn’t they,” the Tasmanian mocked. “I think that’s just one of the games that they play. At the end of the day, behind closed doors, they think they’ve got the guy to do it. Chris is the one with the biggest target on his back, he’s the defending champion.
“And I don’t think it’s going to be between Chris and me. There are so many brilliant bike riders here, you can’t just focus on two guys.”
In a show of faith, BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz announced that Porte had extended his contract with the U.S. registered team moving forward. Further to that, in the orchestrated press conference, each rider effectively pledged their allegiance to Porte, who if successful will become only the second Australian to win the Tour de France.
Asked to compare the strength of his team to that of Sky and other rivals in Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), the 32-year-old returned the vote of confidence to the outfit that was selected in December.
“We haven’t just got one of the best classics riders, we’ve got the best classics rider in the world in Greg [Van Avermaet]. We’ve got a fantastic road captain in Nico Roche, and Damiano Caruso is flying,” Porte said.
“Not to take anything away from any of the other guys, but we have a fantastic team. There’s not much else we can do about the strength of other teams, it’s better just to focus on our team and what we can do.”
The Criterium du Dauphine runner-up as co-captain finished the Tour fifth overall last year, able to mentally recover from an untimely puncture inside the final five kilometres of the second stage that cost him almost two minutes, with no teammates immediately at hand.
“We’ve done wheel changes in training,” Porte said. “I think that was one of those things that happened last year in the heat of the battle. It wasn’t ideal but we’ve covered all bases possible this year so hopefully, something like that doesn’t happen. Or if it happens, it happens to someone else.”