"I don’t think it’s just going to be between Chris and me," says Richie Porte. Photo: Alain Grosclaude, AP

LONDON: The appearance of Richie Porte on Thursday just happened to coincide with an update on the search for the driver who knocked Chris Froome off his bike near Monaco last month.

French police say they have been unable to find any witnesses, but there certainly appears to be no suggestion that the car was a BMC team vehicle or even a Skoda.

No, Porte would not feel the need to have his friend and great rival nobbled, judging by the confidence that seemed to radiate from his toned, Tasmanian torso at the official BMC Tour de France press conference.

Very much the man in form coming into this year’s Tour, and significantly stronger than Froome at the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month, Porte actually suggested that Team Sky are no longer the force they once were — presumably because he is no longer there to support Froome on the Tour’s toughest climbs.

“I think Sky’s probably not as strong as it was in past years,” he said. “But how that affects their tactics I don’t know.”

Froome, who has won the Tour three times, seems happy to let Porte be the pre-race favourite, and said as much the previous evening.

But Porte retorted: “That’s just one of the games they play. Behind closed doors, they think they’ve got the guy to do it. He’s got the track record. Chris is the defending champion.

“But I don’t think it’s just going to be between Chris and me. There are so many good riders here, you can’t just focus on two. Chris is a great champion and he deserves his victories. But it would be nice if Team Sky had a bit more competition this year.”