Six-time stage winner Caleb Ewan and former winner Cameron Meyer headline Mitchelton-Scott's 2018 Santos Tour Down Under team. Australian champion Alexander Edmondson will make his debut in the green and gold jersey at next week's race in his hometown of Adelaide having won the national title Sunday.
A four-time stage winner in 2017 and wearer of the leader's ochre jersey, 23-year-old Ewan will be the protected rider on the team with the likes of Edmondson, new signing Jack Bauer and Daryl Impey key riders in his lead-out train.
Despite winning the overall race on three occasions with Simon Gerrans, the team is solely focused on sprint wins for 2018.
"I thought my form was good coming into the nationals and I've been training well so to be in the race and do well is a big confidence boost coming into the Tour Down Under and I think I am probably in my best shape ever for the Australian season," said Ewan, who was fourth in the road race and won a third straight criterium title last week.
In 2017, Ewan won all four sprint stages to go with his opening and closing stage wins of 2016. With a deep sprint field featuring world champion Peter Saga, two-time overall winner Andre Greipel, and Elia Viviani among others, Ewan expects a tough fight in the battle for sprint supremacy.
"There's probably only three stages that really suit sprinters in the 2018 Tour Down Under, and then there may be a fourth depending on how it is raced. Looking at the profiles, the first two stages and last stage suit me best and then maybe the third stage if it is a more negative race," Ewan added. "This year, the sprint field is a lot better than it's been in the past two years so it's definitely going to be challenging."
Ewan will make his Tour de France debut in 2017, he has raced and won stages at the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d'Italia in previous seasons, and the Tour Down Under challenger is key in his build-up for the race as sports director Matt White explained.
"Caleb is in great shape but the level of competition is really high this year – Greipel, Sagan, Viviani and Caleb – it's the best sprint field they've had in the past 20years. Four world class sprinters and they are each supported by strong teams, Bora-Hansgrohe almost has their Tour de France team here," White said.
"Most teams don't send such stacked teams to Down Under which is one reason we have had so much success here, but it's a really good hit out for sprint teams. When you look at how many sprint opportunities there are between now and July you have to make them all count, so the higher the level of competition the better for us as we prepare Caleb for a debut at the Tour de France."
Veteran Mat Hayman returns to the race in 2018 and will be the road captain for Mitchelton-Scott. Adelaide local Damien Howson completes the squad and with Meyer can ride for the GC if called upon.
For the third year in succession, an Adelaide local will be debuting the green and gold jersey at the Tour Down Under. Edmondson follows in the recent footsteps of Jack Bobridge and Miles Scotson and is excited for the "unbelievable" opportunity.
"This year the course has some solid stages in it which is going to make for some exciting racing," said Edmondson who made his debut at the race with UniSA-Australia in 2015 wearing the green and gold jersey of the national team.
"For sure there will be a couple of days which will most likely come down to a bunch gallop. For the other days, there's a chance of it coming down to a kick but we better have some climbing legs as there's a few steep ramps in the final few kilometres."
The Tour Down Under takes place 16-22 January with the People's Choice Classic on 14 January an opportunity for riders to shake out the off-season in a fast criterium.
For Matt White's stage-by-stage guide to the Tour Down Under, click here.
Mitchelton-Scott for the 2018 Tour Down Under: Jack Bauer, Alex Edmondson, Caleb Ewan, Mat Hayman, Damien Howson, Daryl Impey and Cameron Meyer.