IT'S ON: Australia's Richie Porte can't wait for the Tour de France to start on Saturday.
IT'S ON: Australia's Richie Porte can't wait for the Tour de France to start on Saturday. Christophe Ena

Porte spars with Froome over Tour favouritism

RICHIE Porte has returned fire on Chris Froome in the battle for mind game supremacy, insisting the Brit has a "big target on his back” as the raging Tour de France favourite.

Froome, the defending champ and three-time winner, has been keen to talk the Australian up as the main contender after a string of impressive results this season.

But Porte was having none of that when he fronted the world's media two days before the start of the world's biggest bike race.

"That's just one of the games they play. He's the No.1 favourite with the No.1 saddlecloth and defending champ and he's won more Tours than anyone else racing,” Porte said.

"Chris ... there's no reason he can't win a fourth (Tour title), he's the big favourite here and I think he's going to be in a lot better form than he was at the Dauphine. He knows how to take the pressure, but so do others.

"At the end of the day behind closed doors (Team Sky) think they've got the guy to do it. He's got the track record, but it won't just be a two-horse race.”

Porte knows he has the legs, having this year claimed the Tour Down Under, the Tour de Romandie and stages of Paris Nice and the Criterium Du Dauphine, the latter in which he was clearly the strongest rider.

He believes he's significantly closed the gap to Froome, but the Tasmanian acknowledged the Tour didn't just present physical challenges.

"It's not like you forget how to ride your bike in the days leading up to the Tour, but those days of sitting around the hotel and the press conferences and everything, the old mind does wander and play tricks,” he said.

"To be honest I'm just looking forward to getting this started on Saturday.”

When he does, he'll know he and the BMC team backing him fully for the first time, have left nothing to chance.

Porte revealed the nine-man team had trained for just about every scenario after being plagued by bad luck in recent years, most noticeably the disastrous stage two puncture in last year's Tour that cost him a podium spot.

"We've done wheel changes and things like that in training,” he said.

"I think that was just one of those things that happen last year in the heat of battle. It wasn't ideal, but we've covered all bases possible this year. Hopefully it doesn't happen again, or if it does it happens to someone else.

"It's a massive opportunity for me. It's the first time in my career that I've got a fully dedicated team for me. So it's my chance to have as good a crack at winning this race as possible.”



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