Mitchelton-Scott manager Matt White has selected Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis as two of the main favourites for next year's Santos Tour Down Under. The first WorldTour race of the 2019 campaign starts on January 15 with Mitchelton-Scott looking to defend their crown.
Daryl Impey, who won the race in 2018, is likely to lead the Australian team once more and will be hoping to become the first rider in the race's history to win back-to-back titles. With Caleb Ewan set to race in Lotto Soudal colours, Mitchelton-Scott will not bring a sprinter to the first WorldTour race of the season.
"No one has gone back-to-back in the history of the race, so it will be a big challenge for us," White told Cyclingnews.
"Obviously, without being privileged to see who is coming, regardless I think our biggest threats will come from Australians with Rohan Dennis, Jay McCarthy, as guys who will be ready to go, but for me the big favourite is again Richie Porte."
In 2018, Impey edged out Porte, the then-defending champion, with Tom-Jelte Slagter finishing third. Porte has won on Willunga Hill for the last five straight years and is set to return in 2019 as the leader for Trek-Segafredo after moving away from BMC Racing. He had hinted at not returning to the Tour Down Under earlier this season, but all indications are that he will look to win the race for the second time in his career.
While Impey is set to lead the line for Mitchelton-Scott, the Australian team's three Grand Tours specialists - Esteban Chaves, and Simon and Adam Yates - will make their 2019 race debut back in Europe. Chaves is still on his way back from a long-term virus, and although he raced the Tour Down Under in 2017, he will not return to the race for a second attempt.
White is currently planning the team's assault on 2019's Grand Tours after the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia routes were recently announced. The Vuelta a España has yet to be confirmed. This year Simon Yates and Chaves targeted the Giro, while Adam Yates headed to the Tour. The team won their maiden Grand Tour at the Vuelta, with Simon Yates finishing ahead of Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors), and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
The Tour Down Under is the first significant goal of the 2019 season, and Mitchelton-Scott will be looking to uphold their successful reputation in the race, having won the event four times in the last seven years. The return of the Corkscrew stage in 2019 suits Impey's challenge, according to White.
"The reintroduction of the Corkscrew stage is good for us," White said. "It's always selective, and it can sometimes be more selective than the Willunga stage. Few people have won Corkscrew stage solo, but there will probably be a nice gap between the main field and a small group off the front. This stage will start to define the GC, and while there are bonus seconds that are always critical, the major selection will be made on those two stages."