Australian Richie Porte made his mark in Team Sky's black colours leading Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the mountains to their Tour de France victories. In the Giro d'Italia, starting tomorrow on the Italian Riviera, he will have his opportunity to lead Sky's classification team in a Grand Tour and, as he says, "step out of the shadows".
He has already won nearly every event he has entered in the 2015 season. To date, he has claimed the overall victory in Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino. He now has his opportunity to continue the winning run in the Giro, from May 9 to 31.
"I've enjoyed working for both [Wiggins and Froome], they are good guys and big champions, but now I feel that it's time for me to step out of the shadows and take my opportunities," Porte said.
"I've done it all year this year and I'm really enjoying it. This race is a big motivation for me. It's my dream race."
Porte fell sick and was not able to lead the Giro team in 2014. In the Tour, he was 'Plan B' after Froome abandoned but was still suffering and fell out of the contention.
Some critics questioned whether he is able to survive the demands of a three-week race and win.
"Do I have to prove myself? Not really. At the end of the day, I have still won Paris-Nice and Catalunya. It's been a great season already. If the season was to end tomorrow, which I hope it doesn't, it'll still be a good season for me."
>>> Giro d’Italia 2015 route: Everything you need to know (video)
Porte added: "But I'm hungry for this race. I really want more."
To win the race, the 30-year-old must deal with Spain's Alberto Contador of team Tinkoff-Saxo. Contador is the most successful Grand Tour rider of his generation with 10 wins.
Below the two, there are others like Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-QuickStep) and Italian Fabio Aru (Astana), second and third in the 2014 Giro. None of the three, including Porte, has yet to win a Grand Tour.
The Cycling Weekly Giro d'Italia contenders preview
Besides the Australian time trial title and his three overall wins this season, Porte placed second in the Tour Down Under and fourth in the Volta ao Algarve, and won climbing stages in both. To win the Giro, he will have to carry his run for over four months.
"Obviously, people say that [I could tire], but I've only gotten better as the season's progressed. Using guys like Tim Kerrison as our coach, who's won the Tour with two different riders, helps.
"Yes, it's going to be a hard third week, but my strength is that I won since the start of the season, I'd rather come in that way than after a long altitude block. I don't feel tired, but instead, I feel ready to fight. I know it's going to be hard, but it's going to be hard for everybody."
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