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France the next port of call for ruthless Richie

Sport

Richie Porte's ruthlessly-efficient domination of the Tour Down Under means he can look to the Tour de France with confidence.

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Six years after Cadel Evans made Australian sporting history by winning the Tour, the BMC team are again building their July campaign around an Australian cycling star.

And Porte’s devastating attacks on the climbs at Paracombe and Willunga in the past week, plus his trouble-free defence of the Tour Down Under overall lead, strongly suggest a big year ahead.

Australian Richie Porte of team BMC Racing celebrates winning the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Australia’s Richie Porte celebrates winning the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. Photo: Dan Peled / AAP

Porte stayed out of trouble in Sunday’s sixth and final stage to win the Tour by 48 seconds – the second-biggest winning margin in the event’s 19-year history.

Compatriot Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) won yesterday’s 90km Adelaide street race to complete an Australian sweep of the stages.

Ewan won all four sprint stages, plus the street race last Sunday that starts the Tour Down Under week, and Porte took out the other two.

Several of Porte’s teammates in Adelaide will also ride for him at the Tour de France.

After starting last year’s Tour de France as co-leader with American Tejay van Garderen, this year Porte is BMC’s main man.

BMC, featuring Australians Rohan Dennis and Miles Scotson, worked superbly for Porte at the Tour Down Under.

“That’s exciting, that I will have a team built around me for the first time ever,” Porte said.

“I’ve often been the Plan B, or whatever – BMC Racing Team have put a lot of faith in me this year and today I’ve shown them that I can repay that faith.”

Porte finished a career-best fifth at the Tour de France last year and but for another dose of the bad luck that has plagued his career, he would have been on the podium.

His rotten luck struck again a few days later when he crashed out of the Rio Olympics road race.

But Porte has spent the past five months rebuilding his fitness and none of the other climbers in the Tour Down Under could match his explosive surges.

Wearing the No.23 made famous in sport by stars such as basketballer Michael Jordan, Porte this week looked like a man ready for a big Tour de France.

I feel like I’m growing up, slowly

He came into the last week as the rider to beat and Porte handled the spotlight with aplomb.

In the past, he has struggled at times with that pressure.

“If there was pressure on me here from the team, I didn’t feel it, nothing was really said,” he revealed.

“It was only in the media that people were saying I was the favourite.

“It never really got to me, so I feel like I’m growing up, slowly, as well and I can deal with whatever they throw at me.”

Porte will race this week in Melbourne at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and then head to Europe, where his first major assignment will be the March 5-12 Paris-Nice stage race.

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The peleton approaches Town Hall. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Also on Sunday, Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) held onto his second place overall.

But Australian Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) dramatically snatched third place from compatriot Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) on a countback.

-AAP

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