In the days leading up to the first race of cycling's World Tour, and despite the uncertainties of which rider might dominate, I'm sure the winner of the Santos Tour Down Under will likely be Australian.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:39 PM

Defending champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) is out of the race after crashing and injuring his shoulder in training but after looking at the form guide, another Aussie is likely to replace him as TDU winner.

The first big race of the season for any sport is always difficult to predict, therefore the only clues can only be formulated from attitude, mind-set and language.

After spending time with some of the likely contendors prior to the TDU's opening stage, the days of a non-Australian claiming Australian cycling's greatest prize may be a long-time coming.

Although only two years have passed since Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter triumphed in Adelaide, I feel the landscape has shifted more permanently.

Last week's men's national road race was a cracker, and although Cadel Evans (BMC) and Richie Porte (Sky), surprisingly didn't show the agression expected on the Mount Buninyong circuit, my suspicions are that both are determined to save their legs for the battles on South Australia's roads in pursuit of claiming an event neither has managed to conquer.

The hours of training, the dedication and focus from the world-standard Aussie contingent (at this time of year) is going to be difficult to match from any challenges that may come from Europe, North America, or in the case of Orica-GreenEDGE's Daryl Impey, South Africa.

And let's forget about some other Aussie riders like Tour de France stage winner Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), youngster Rohan Dennis (BMC), who is deep in training for a shot at the world hour record and national champion Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling).

Don't get me wrong, there are European contenders who could win, like Tiago Machado (Katusha), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Samuel Sanchez (Astana) or Dominico Pozzovivo (AG2R), but many have just come from training camps, while the Aussies already have some hard racing in their legs.

Richie Porte is the stand-out likely winner for me, but wouldn't it be fitting to see Cadel Evans wear a champion's jersey one last time?

Mike Tomalaris will be reporting live daily from the Santos Tour Down Under on SBS nightly news from approximately 7:10pm AEDT.