The Santos Tour Down Under starts with the People’s Choice Classic this Sunday, 17 January, in Adelaide.
The Orica-GreenEDGE team will be headlined by two-time national road champion Simon Gerrans and 2016 national criterium champion Caleb Ewan. Powerful Australians, 2013 national champion Luke Durbridge, 2014 national time trial champion Michael Hepburn and 2006 Commonwealth Games champion Mathew Hayman bolster the Orica-GreenEDGE roster.
2013 Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Daryl Impey (South Africa) and five-time Tour de Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini (Switzerland) complete the line up.
As the team’s only home WorldTour race, sport director Matt White said the outfit has high ambitions.
“We have multiple goals,” White said. “We’d love to win the overall and stage wins along the way.”
“I am very happy with the group we have assembled for what is always a very special race for this team."
With the re-introduction of the Corkscrew climb, White said general classification teams needed to be on alert across a number of stages throughout the Tour.
“The Tour route is almost identical to when Gerro won here two years ago,” White said. “There are three crucial stages for general classification.
“Stirling just for time bonuses, the Corkscrew because it’s a very tough climb and there is no time to get a chase organised from the top of the climb to the finish line in Campbelltown and then Willunga.
“The race is always won or lost on Willunga. It’s not the toughest of climbs but if you lose contact with whatever group you are in, that can cost you the Tour.”
White identified two Colombians Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) and Sergio Henao (Sky), Italian Diego Ullisi from (Lampre) along with the two Australians on the BMC Racing team, Ritchie Porte and defending champ Rohan Dennis, as the riders to watch in the overall battle.
A strong option for stage success for Orica-GreenEDGE is Ewan, who has started the year with plenty of success having taken out the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and Australian criterium championship already in 2016.
The eager 21-year-old sprinter will line up at the Tour Down Under for the first time in Orica-GreenEDGE colours after his first appearance for the UniSA-Australia team in 2014.
“Obviously being the only WorldTour race in Australia you want to do it. The atmosphere there, even compared to a lot of the European races, is almost better and with the crowd being Australian, you have more support.” - Caleb Ewan
In discussing the course, Ewan identified a number of stages that have the potential to come down to a bunch sprint.
“The criterium on the Sunday before the race, I’ll have a go in that,” he said. “Then, I think the first stage will be a bunch finish and possibly the fourth stage, that usually comes down to a bunch sprint too.
“Hopefully I can do well in those two stages and then the last stage, the crit in Adelaide at the end of the Tour, I’d like to go for that one as well.”
The Santos Tour Down Under kicks off with the People’s Choice Classic criterium on Sunday evening before the six-day Tour begins in earnest on Tuesday in Prospect and finishes with the traditional final Adelaide circuit on Sunday, 24 January.
Orica-GreenEDGE Tour Down Under team
Michael Albasini (SUI, 34)
Luke Durbridge (AUS, WA, 24)
Caleb Ewan (AUS, NSW, 21)
Simon Gerrans (AUS, VIC, 35)
Mathew Hayman (AUS, NSW, 37)
Michael Hepburn (AUS, QLD, 24)
Daryl Impey (RSA, 30)
Santos Tour Down Under stage details
Sun, 17 Jan: People’s Choice Classic, Adelaide, 51km
Tue, 19 Jan: Hostworks Stage 1, Prospect to Lyndoch, 130.8km
Wed, 20 Jan: Staging Connections Stage 2, Unley to Stirling, 132km
Thu, 21 Jan: Thomas Foods Stage 3, Glenelg to Campbelltown, 139km
Fri, 22 Jan: Bupa Stage 4, Norwood to Victor Habour, 138km
Sat, 23 Jan: Bike Exchange Stage 5, McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, 151.5km
Sun, 24 Jan: Be Safe Be Seen MAC Stage 6, Adelaide, 90km