Australian WorldTour team Orica-Scott have confirmed its seven-man team for the 2017 Tour Down Under will be lead by four-time and defending champion Simon Gerrans, and Esteban Chaves, with Caleb Ewan to challenge for stage wins.
Orica-Scott won the overall title last year with Gerrans along with four stage wins that were equally shared between the 36-year-old and Ewan.
"It's going to be pretty hard top last year's results, but the team we have this year is as good as we have ever had at the Tour Down Under," director sportif Matt White explained. "This is an important race for us, our sponsors and our Australian fans and again we are aiming high with general classification and stage ambitions."
With the re-introduction of the Paracombe finish on stage 2, White expects the one-kilometre climb will play a key role in deciding the overall outcome.
"The changes to the second stage into Paracombe make it the new queen stage and we will have a pretty good idea of how the field is going at the end of it. Instead of a 1.8km climb to finish we will have 20-odd minutes of climbing, and we have two quality options in Gerrans and Chaves depending on how the stage is raced," said White, adding that the stage 5 climb up Willunga Hill will likewise be key.
“The Willunga stage will still be where the Tour Down Under is won or lost, but by the time we arrive at this day the general classification situation will be a lot clearer."
Damien Howson and Luke Durbridge will both be called upon across the week in support of the team's general classification aspirations. Daryl Impey will also be riding in a support role for the week but will double up as a key man for Ewan in the fast sprint stage finishes. German Roger Kluge makes his debut for the team as Ewan's man for the leadout and White is hoping the dup can start their working relationship on a high.
"We wanted to bring Roger into the fray to start the relationship with Caleb early," White said."The pair will do a lot of races together this year and Daryl Impey will also be a big player in this relationship. Caleb has been working with Daryl for a couple of years now, we introduced Luka Mezgec into the team in 2016, and this year we strengthen the group again with Roger.
"We are confident that the trio will gel together quickly in Adelaide, and with one of the most sprint-friendly courses of the Tour Down Under there is the potential for a number of opportunities to test it out."
Gerrans will head to the Tour Down Under off the back of his silver medal in the Australian national titles, explaining post-race Sunday he is ready for the challenge in Adelaide.
"Today is always a really good hit out for Tour Down Under. To get that first hard race in the legs is a good one to get down and out of the way and that is one little advantage we have over the European guys who are coming out to Tour Down Under so we are a day in front of them you could say," he said.
The 2017 Tour Down Under takes place January 17-22 with the pre-race People's Choice Classic held January 15.
Orica-Scott for the 2017 Tour Down Under: Esteban Chaves, Luke Durbridge, Caleb Ewan, Simon Gerrans, Damien Howson, Daryl Impey and Roger Kluge.