Italian Champion Elia Viviani will lead the squad at the first race of the year.
Taking place between 15-20 January, Tour Down Under will kick off the World Tour calendar, which our team won last season with a record number of points. The first three days will give as many opportunities to sprinters, although the stage 2 finish will be more selective, with an uphill drag to the line in Uraidla favouring the punchy riders.
The general classification will begin to take shape one day later, when the peloton will tackle the Montacute climb (2.3km, 8.9%) inside the last ten kilometres. The stiff gradient could lead to a flurry of attacks, especially as from the top there’s a fast downhill all the way to the finish in Campbelltown, which returns to the race after a two-year absence.
Despite a rolling terrain, the penultimate stage should come down to a bunch sprint, with the peloton’s fast men set to fight not only for victory, but also to wrap up the points classification, before the climbers’ big showdown on Willunga Hill (3.6km, 7.1%), on whose slopes the overall victor will emerge.
Last season, Elia Viviani opened his account in Australia, taking an emphatic win at Tour Down Under stage 3, the first of the 18 he ended up nabbing in his first year with the team. Most successful rider of 2018, the Italian Champion returns to the race hoping for a similar start and will be joined by Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns, neo-pro Mikkel Honoré, James Knox, Danish Champion Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini.
“Stage victories are the main goals with Elia first of all. It would be a good start to the year. He is very motivated as usual, but we need to see who else is there. There will be a few opportunities, but also changes in the course, including Willunga Hill on the last day now, which will impact on the dynamic of the race.”
“Our team is strong, and besides Elia we have Dries, who knows the race, and also James, who can have a bit of a free role for the GC if the legs will be there. We will take it day by day though and see how everybody reacts to the high temperatures in Australia”, said sports director Rik Van Slycke.
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers