Richie Porte tipped to win Tour de France 2017

Saturday, 01 Jul, 2017

But the Briton added: "The level of my rivals is higher, and if the Criterium du Dauphine is anything to go by, Richie stands out as the strongest". Even in 2014, when things had gone awry for Froome well before crashing out in the first week of the Tour, Froome had triumphed in five races prior to July.

Richie Porte, an Australian cyclist from BMC Racing known for elite endurance and flurrying finishes, is the pre-race favorite to wear the yellow jersey.

"Last year at the Vuelta (which he won) I was better than at the Tour de France", he said.

The Tour begins Saturday with a mostly flat 14-kilometer (8.7 mile) individual time trial in Duesseldorf.

This race has "une pleiade de favoris", - a veritable Pleiades of favourites - in the poetic view of last year's runner-up Romain Bardet.

In Olympic road champion Greg van Avermaet, this year's Tour de Suisse runner-up Damiano Caruso and former Sky man Nicolas Roche, Porte has a powerful unit behind him and he oozed confidence at a news conference on Thursday. The race starts in Dusseldorf, Germany and cuts through Belgium and Luxembourg before traversing into the legendary unforgiving terrain of France to finish Stage 4.

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and its partner Dimension Data have used an analytics platform for a number of years, but for the 2017 edition of Le Tour, machine learning and complex algorithms will match live data from the course with historical information to predict what might happen. Every Tour is a different battle in terms of getting that Yellow Jersey and then trying to hold on to it.

Dave Brailsford says there are no concerns over Chris Froome's mixed build-up to the Tour de France, as he is focused ever more on the big event. I think the route really suits a rider like Bardet, and he showed previous year that he has to be taken seriously.

"I'm just excited to get it started to be honest". That means stages in the French Ardennes, the Jura Mountains and Massif Central, as well as the Pyrénées and Alps.

But Cavendish, who missed three months this year through glandular fever caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, admits he may not be at peak fitness.

"I don't mind the pressure, I've had it since I started the Tour", he said.

- Only three riders have triumphed on the Champs Elysees final stage in the last eight years (Mark Cavendish x4, Marcel Kittel x2, Andre Greipel x2); in the previous nine editions no rider won it a few times. "And that support has grown from a year ago".

"Certainly I've learned to grow a thicker skin over the years and I understand where it's coming from given cycling's history", he said. "I don't want people to think a year ago was a fluke".