Richie Porte says he is relaxed ahead a Tour de France title bid with new team Trek-Segafredo, putting two years of misfortune at the race and a chequered start to the season behind him.
Porte struggled with a bout of bronchitis following February’s Herald Sun Tour but yesterday viewed the slower start to his 2019 campaign as a blessing in disguise.
“It hasn’t been a slower start to the season because I wanted it that way. My race program had to change a few times, I kept getting sick,” he said in a pre-race press conference in Brussels, Belgium. “It’s nice to turn up in July not on fumes and trying to eke out the last bit of form that I had, which has happened to me the last few years.
“I’m here under no pressure really from the team. I’m ready to take it one day at a time and see how it all goes. I think the last three stages in the Alps are really where it’s going to be decided anyhow. It’s not a bad thing to be coming in a little underdone.
“The form is pretty good. I just need to stay healthy.”
The Australian has garnered the full support of Trek-Segafredo, flanked by the likes of Bauke Mollema, who finished fifth at the Giro d’Italia in May, and road captain Koen de Kort. Some of the men Porte knows well, others he has not ridden alongside yet this season.
“I’ve done a training camp with him [Bauke] so I know he’s absolutely flying. Bauke is also a good GC card for us to play. I think to have him and Giulio Ciccone coming from the Giro as well it’s some solid climbing firepower for us,” he said.
“We’ll see how Bauke is. He’s definitely going to be up there as well.”
The mountainous route this year has been billed as the most open in recent times, largely given to the absence of injured Briton and four-time winner Chris Froome.
However, Porte went against the current and was quick to give credit to Froome’s Ineos teammate and defending champion Geraint Thomas, naming the Welshman as the “out and out” favourite for overall.
“I think Geraint Thomas is the clear favourite. He won it last year. I think he’s in better shape this year too,” Porte said.
“It’s a shame that Chris Froome is not here but it does change everything. I think he [Thomas] has to be the out and out favourite now with Ineos so I’d expect them to back him 100 per cent.”
Porte has crashed out on Stage 9 of the previous two editions of the race. Mental resilience is as important as physical fitness when it comes to the Tour and the 34-year-old says he isn’t harbouring on what has become an unlucky number.
“At the end of the day it’s just going to be another stage that we need to get through,” he said.
“Hopefully this year it’s a transfer stage whereas the last two years it’s been one of the stages that people always talked about being a nasty day. Fingers crossed this year we can get through it.”
Porte named the Stage 2 team time trial as well as the final, isolating week that includes three stages that breach 2000m in altitude, as imperative to the overall.
“We’ve got a good team here and pretty much all the bases covered. The team time trial is really all where it’s going to start for us,” he said.
The 106th Tour commences on Saturday with a flat stage for sprinters in Brussels.