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Porte drops weight, regains confidence

A DIET of hard training and minimal beer has Tasmanian rider Richie Porte primed to atone for a disappointing 2014 campaign in Europe in this year's Tour Down Under, which starts in the Barossa Valley today.

After taking the role as main support rider in Team Sky for Bradley Wiggins (2012) and Chris Froome (2013) in their respective Tour de France victories, not to mention winning the Paris-Nice in 2013, the 29-year-old (pictured) was expected to have a breakout season last year, specifically targeting the Giro d'Italia.

But illness intervened, ruling him out of the Giro and costing him a shot at a podium finish on the Tour de France after being in a prime position early in the race.

Porte returned to Tasman-ia in November and has trimmed down to 62kg after a gruelling training schedule that preceded victory in last week's national time trial.

"My confidence last year took a fair ol' beating. I thought it was going to be a bit easier," he said. "This year, I am ready to step it up. My big goal is the Giro d'Italia. I am so motivated to go there in great form."

Porte nominated fellow Aussie Cadel Evans, competing in his last World Tour event, Orica-GreenEDGE rider Daryl Impey and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) as the riders to beat.

After winning the People's Choice Classic on Sunday, German sprint sensation Marcel Kittel is the hot favourite to win stage one - a 132.6km ride from Tanunda to the Adelaide suburb of Campbelltown.



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