Defending Tour Down Under champion Daryl Impey is confident that he has arrived at this year's race in top form, and that although the course for this year's race is harder than 12 months ago, he has the pedigree to be in the mix once more.
"I've done all the hard work and put all the effort in, so it's just about how I compare to everyone else. I've used all the time I've had in terms of coming here in the best shape I could be," the Mitchelton-Scott rider told Cyclingnews.
Last year Impey claimed the overall title thanks to three second places during the six-day race, with their resulting bonus seconds, and held off the late challenge from Richie Porte on Willunga Hill to win the first WorldTour race of his 2018 campaign.
This year's edition of the Tour Down Under is set to be a harder affair with only three stages for the sprinters and the Corkscrew climb on stage 4. Willunga has been moved to the final stage of the race, giving the purer climbers the chance to steal the show on the final day of racing.
"I might be a bit more marked, but there are a still a lot of favourites here – guys like Richie and a lot of other good climbers. We'll just have to see. I think that the course is going to be a lot tougher this year. There are a few stages with new finishes, and we're a little bit unsure of those, but we've got a good team. Hopefully I'll have good fortune like last year, and good legs," he said.
All about bonus seconds
Last year, Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team dovetailed their GC ambitions with the responsibility of leading out Caleb Ewan. With the sprinter now at Lotto Soudal, the Australian team can fully focus their efforts on Impey's defence.
"There's no doubt that you need bonus seconds. To win the race overall, they're the things that you need. A guy like Richie can get rid of me on Willunga or Corkscrew, so on the flatter stages I need to take the opportunities that are here and take some bonus seconds," Impey explained.
"I think I'm climbing well. Last year I didn't really go for bonus seconds, and just put everything on the finishes, and it worked out. It's about not being too aggressive, and letting the race take shape. First I need to get through Corkscrew."
Porte starts the race as the red-hot favourite. He has won the race once – in 2017 – but is a consistent contender due to his recent dominance on Willunga Hill. The 33-year-old is eager to impress in his new Trek-Segafredo colours, and despite this being his first outing in new colours, Impey expects Porte to push all the way until the finish.
"They're all experienced at Trek, and Richie has raced here so many times. He knows how to win this race. I don't think the team matters too much. He's gained some climbers, with riders like like Pantano on his side now. He looks in good shape and it's going to be quite a GC battle."