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Giro d'Italia

After strong early season, time is now for Porte in Giro

Sky's Richie Porte facing his best ever grand tour opportunity after an impressive start to the 2015 season

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SANREMO, Italy (VN) — Australian Richie Porte delivered Sky teammates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome to Tour de France victories. Saturday on the Italian Riviera, he begins his own bid for a grand tour win in the Giro d’Italia.

The 30-year-old has been working for six years to arrive at this point. He had his chance last year to lead Sky in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, but fell sick in the early season, missed the first race, and floundered in the second.

Sky believes the time is right for him to win a grand tour. Based on his results this year, it could happen this month as the Italian tour travels the Bel Paese for its final destination in Milan on May 31.

“No one just lands on Mars without taking the steps to get there,” Sky’s general manager, David Brailsford said.

“If you get your belief system right, and you are doing well on the key and queen stages of the races and you manage to pull off the win, your self-belief rockets.

“You get used to it. You say, ‘I can do it. It’s not a question of if but when I’m going to make the move.'”

Porte’s self-belief should have soared this spring with his results. He won the Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, and Giro del Trentino stage races. He placed second in the Tour Down Under and fourth in the Volta ao Algarve.

It would have helped make up for his disappointing 2014 season. After helping Froome to the 2013 Tour win, Sky gave the Tasmanian the nod to lead its Giro team. Porte however fell sick in the early season Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, abandoned, and never truly recovered.

He had to skip the Giro and refocus on the Tour. When Froome crashed and abandoned, Porte became the leader. Still suffering from what he said was pneumonia, he fell out of contention on the 13th stage to Chamrousse.

The disappointment forced him to reflect, reset, and rearrange his life. He stopped drinking, began working closer with team coach, Tim Kerrison, and posted results immediately in 2015 with the time trial championships in Australia.

“Obviously, I got sick in the Tour, there wasn’t much I could do about that, but it was a blessing in disguise,” Porte said.

“I made a few tough decisions in my lifestyle. I’m happy with my off-season, looking after my weight, being professional on and off the bike. It’s helped me.

“This is my dream race, the one I’ve been thinking about since I started my training back in December.”

To win, Porte will have to battle three weeks against Italian Fabio Aru (Astana), Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Etixx-Quick Step) and perhaps his most his most feared competitor, Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Contador is the only one of the major contenders to have won a grand tour. Not just that, he counts 10 grand tour wins, at least one from each of the three.

Porte is on the right path this season given his overall wins and placings. The only question that critics raise is whether can hold form. To take the Giro’s spiral trophy in Milan, he will have to complete a run of four months.

“I’d much rather be in that spot, having had all of those wins,” he added, “rather than coming to the Giro without anything like my rivals.”