Security tight for start of Tour de France

BMC Racing rider Richie Porte of Australia smiles

BMC Racing rider Richie Porte of Australia smiles

Off the back of a typically committed performance at the Giro dItalia, the popular Belarusian is sure to take the 18th Grand Tour of his illustrious career in his stride, setting tempo on the flat and in the mid-mountains.

"And he became president of the Republic", Prudhomme laughs.

They were so limited in fact, that even speaking on the eve of the 2016 season 18 months ago, he told this newspaper that he would be leaving the powerful British squad at the end of the year in an effort to carve out more opportunities for himself.

Team Sky's lead Directeur Sportif, Nicolas Portal, said he is expecting a tight GC battle at the Tour de France and has suggested that those hopeful of overall victory will have to make their own opportunities to take time throughout the three weeks, rather than waiting for "set piece" stages.

Porte races for the U.S. registered BMC Racing Team and was dubbed by the British defending Tour champion Chris Froome on Wednesday as "the man to beat".

Throw in the likes of last year's Vuelta a Espana victor Nairo Quintana, Spanish veteran and two-time former champion Alberto Contador, French hope Romain Bardet and Criterium du Dauphine victor Jakob Fuglsang, and a major battle is expected over the next three weeks.

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The "circus" surrounding the Tour can cruel a rider's winning chances as effectively as any rival rider or their team can.

For mine though, a big story out of this year's race will be how Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica - Scott) fares.

"It is something he is going to have to deal with", Evans said.

"It might not immediately look it in terms of profiles, but its a really challenging course and it will be a hard Tour to win".

Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué, who's been involved in the Tour de France since the 1980s, said this year's Tour is one of the most unique he's seen in decades.

Fuglsang started the stage just under 15 seconds behind Froome. Aiming for that fourth victory has given me a lot of motivation.

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The Tour follows measures imposed by the Ministry of the Interior and there is a control center on every stage, while 23,000 police will attempt to ensure the safety of the race. In this Tour, we are going to have to improvise. It's a feeling that you don't get from any other race.

"The Tour de France wins we have achieved together have been a big part of the team's history", he added.

2016 victor Chris Froome returns to the Tour de France with his eyes firmly set on a landmark fourth victory and a third consecutive Tour title.

Following the Grand Depart in Germany, where one of the sprint kings will win the honour of wearing the 2017 Tour's first yellow jersey, the 3,500km, three-week race begins in earnest, with the 198 riders racing a 203.5km route from Dusseldorf to Liege, Belgium. These include the dangers of badly placed road furniture, errant dogs and the hundreds of thousands of roadside fans who stand or run perilously close to the riders, and constant demands of a media throng numbering 2000 and sponsors.

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.

"There are many favorites in this Tour", Quintana said. "Now I'm looking forward to being part of Team Sky's future". "We will do our best".

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"We'll do our best - that podium in Paris is the goal and I'm ready to do my best to get there". You can't just focus on two guys.

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