Italian Champion Elia Viviani will lead Deceuninck – Quick-Step at the first race of the year, the Tour Down Under
Taking place between the 15th and 20th of January, the Tour Down Under will kick off the WorldTour calendar, which the Belgian team won last season with a record number of points. The first three days will provide opportunities to sprinters, although the finish of the second stage 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 field 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, Viviani opened his account in Australia, taking an emphatic win at Tour Down Under stage 3, the first of the eighteen he ended up nabbing in his first year with the team. The 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 goal with Elia first of all,” said Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Rik Van Slycke. “That 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.”
Deceuninck – Quick-Step team for the Santos Tour Down Under (AUS) 2.UWT – 15/01 – 20/01
Rémi Cavagna (FRA)
Dries Devenyns (BEL)
Mikkel Honoré (DEN)
James Knox (GBR)
Michael Mørkøv (DEN)
Fabio Sabatini (ITA)
Elia Viviani (ITA)