Thursday, 27 July, 2017

Sky not the force of old, says Tour rival Porte

Security tight for start of Tour de France Bryn Lennon Getty Images The 2016 Tour de France gets underway with Stage One
Sammy Stanley | 01 July, 2017, 00:14

For one, there is no shortage of rivals in the dominant Dauphine rider Richie Porte, Colombian climber Nairo Quintana and previous Tour victor Alberto Contador.

Mr Consistency, Nairo Quintana has taken a spot on the podium in all three of Tours in which he has competed.

The Tour is a special race.

For the first time, the 2,360-metre Col d'Izoard will host a finish of a stage although it has featured on the Tour 34 times since 1922, building up a fearsome reputation.

Brailsford has faced calls to quit amidst rumours there was a rider-led move to get him kicked out of Sky.

A fourth challenge facing Froome could well be Old Father Time.

After that setback former Tour great Greg LeMond said Quintana needed to be more explosive when he attacked in the mountains to have any chance of taking time out the likes of Team Sky's reigning champion Froome and BMC's Richie Porte. "He is always the number one rival".

Tracking the ride of the eventual victor of the last 10 Tours stage-by-stage and attempting to match their progression against each stage type as it occurs in this year's race - whether hilly, flat, mountainous or time-trial - they reckon they've pinpointed where the Tour will heat up. And there are new challengers like Colombian Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates to take into account, too.

BMC's Richie Porte impressed in the Tour de Romandie, and he's being backed for success by a lot of pundits.

"I think riding smart every day and creating opportunities could be a way to win the Tour de France this year; obviously the three mountain finishes are really important but every day will be very important, the tension will be very high, and we will have to be focused".

But knowing that he can not rival Froome in the races against the clock, Quintana is happy to see just 36.5km of time-trialling in total, starting with Saturday's 14km opening stage. Porte finished a narrowly defeated second, Froome fourth. They are seen as part of Tour de France history and it's a goal for me to try and be up there with them. "He's the big favourite here".

"I've been at Team Sky since we began back in 2010 and for me it's home", he said.

On the plus side for the Briton, Froome's ever increasing experience as a Tour victor is a huge advantage.

You have to be able to deal with that pressure and expect the unexpected, like at Ventoux past year.

Whilst today's opening flat time trial stage will likely see few gaps between the favourites, an initial opportunity for Froome to re-stamp his authority will come as soon as Wednesday's first summit finish.

"There will be more "close-call days" than in recent editions", said Boardman, who will be a pundit on this year's race for ITV4.

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