Porte to fight for Santos Tour Down Under win with strong Sky backing

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Keen to get his season off to a successful start after a largely-frustrating 2014, Richie Porte has been confirmed as the leader of the Sky squad in the upcoming Santos Tour Down Under, and has said that he is psyched to ride strongly.

“This race is one of the highlights of my season,” he said on Wednesday, confirming his participation. “The support we receive at the Santos Tour Down Under is unbelievable.

“I’ll never forget the atmosphere on Willunga Hill last year and the memories of winning that stage will stay with me forever. This year we have a really strong team heading into the race and we can’t wait to getting started.”

Porte will be backed by the Britons Pete Kennaugh, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas, the Australian Chris Sutton and the Italian Salvatore Puccio.

He isn’t the only one with the ability to do well, though; Thomas won stage two in 2013 and led the race until the penultimate stage, slipping to fifth overall on Old Willunga Hill. He fought back on the final day and picked up enough bonus seconds to finish the race in third.

He also won the sprints classification.

Last season Thomas sacrificed his chances for Porte, who won stage five and took fourth overall. Thomas was eighth.

Kennaugh is another who could shine. He’s a strong general classification rider and won both the Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali and the Tour of Austria last season.

Now 25 years of age, he is looking to make further progress in 2015. Could that come in the Santos Tour Down Under? If his team-mates falter, he could get his chance.

“Richie and the team raced really well here last year,” said race director Mike Turtur. “We expect cycling fans are again in for a great display of determination and skill by Team Sky at the event as they battle the climbs on the road to glory.

“Richie is an accomplished rider, having achieved one of his career’s biggest victories in 2013, winning two stages and the overall classification at Paris-Nice. It is always a thrill to have the Australian riders who do so well around the world come home to compete.”

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