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Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step relying on Slovakian for overall victory
Peter Velits (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) is a rider that has received little attention when discussing the general classification at the Santos Tour Down Under, but it was around this time last year that he won the overall at the Tour of Oman in what was his first stage race of the year. The opening stop of the WorldTour in Australia may not have the mountains of Oman, but the inclusion of Corkscrew and Willunga may be enough for the Slovakian to make an impression.
Velits has been able to prepare well for the six-day race and says that while he lacks race fitness, he believes he may find early season form in Adelaide. Some solid training blocks with his brother Martin means he's arrived in Adelaide with an eye on the overall victory before attempting to defend his title in Oman.
"That's been the idea behind this, that is why I was coming to Australia - to catch the same early form as I had last year," he told Cyclingnews. "That would be really good if I had the same legs as I had [at Oman]. To bring some results would be really perfect.
"As usual, together with my brother we started training after a period of rest in California. After California we spent some time with the team on a training camp in Mallorca. Then again we went alone in Mallorca. So most of the time we spent in warm weather, where we could train properly."
Velits was easily amongst the front group that sprinted into Lobethal and finished on the same time as the day's winner André Greipel in 22nd-place. Tomorrow's stage from Mount Barker to Rostrevor will be the first real test for Velits before he then looks to a strong finish at Old Willunga.
"I've had pretty good preparation but it's the first race of the year so I can't really tell how the legs are feeling," said Velits prior to the start of Stage 1 at Tour Down Under.
"The next race will be Oman and that will be a little bit special because of last year's victory. Then Tirreno is just about two weeks after and that's my next big goal where I hope to have the best legs. Until May it's quite packed.
"Last year I did Mallorca Challenge but only did one race because of the snow so I can't really count it as big preparation. If it's the same as last year where I catch the early form then it will be perfect."