Chris Froome, the British Team Sky rider, has said that he expects the local favourite Richie Porte to push him all the way to the finish line when he begins his 2017 season at the UCI’s World Tour event in Victoria on Sunday.

Froome, a three time Tour de France champion, rode in the Towards Zero Race around Melbourne’s Formula One circuit earlier in the week. However, his quest for a fourth Yellow Jersey will properly begin on Sunday with the 174 kilometre one day event which starts in Geelong, south-west of Melbourne.

Froome opted not to take part in this year’s Tour Down Under which Porte won ahead of Colombia’s Esteban Chaves.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s race Froome said, “It’s still very early obviously in the season and it’s probably too early to be talking favourites for the Tour. I’ve always had a lot of confidence in Richie’s abilities and always said he’s a Tour de France contender. Certainly for Sunday, I’d expect Richie to be up there on that final climb.”

The Tour Down Under, which ended last weekend, saw three Australians claim places in the top four: Porte, Jay McCarthy, and Nathan Haas.

As a result Froome is expecting a strong challenge from the local riders, especially over the steep Chalambra climb which marks the finishing circuit.

Froome, who will also take part in the five-day Herald Sun Tour from February 1, added, “I’d expect Esteban and Nathan to be hanging on for dear life. Every edition will be different but the organisers have done a great job of putting in a course that is so unpredictable. It is just a very open race.”