Adelaide local Rohan Dennis was an outside favourite not only in the peloton but on his own BMC Racing team when he won the 2015 Tour Down Under. In 2016, the 27-year-old rode in support of Richie Porte as he finished second to Simon Gerrans.
In 2018, the trio of riders will all line out for BMC in Adelaide as the winners of the last four editions of the race. Porte is the defending champion but with only three race days since crashing out of the 2017 Tour de France, his form is somewhat unknown compared to his two teammates.
"There is a lot of pressure on us. Obviously, Richie won quite convincingly last year and Gerro the year before, me the year before and then Gerro," Dennis said before he and BMC headed out for an early morning training ride to avoid Thursday's 38-degree heat.
"It has put a bit of pressure on us but I think we are ready. Even though Simon didn't win nationals or Richie or myself, we are all in good form and we will see how it goes on what I think is the first big stage, up Norton Summit on stage 4."
Dennis started his season with a third time trial title last week, while Gerrans put in a show of strength in the road race before Porte tested his legs with a serious of stinging attacks before finishing 14th. The Paracombe finish, where Porte and Dennis laid the foundations of their wins in 2015 and 2017, has been removed from the Tour Down Under parcours with the new finish in Uraidla via Norton Summit enticing the climbers.
While Willunga Hill, where Porte has won for the last four years, remains the queen stage of the race, Dennis looks to stage 4 as a genuine race-defining day in the battle for the leader's ochre jersey.
"It will be interesting how we go up Norton Summit," he said. "It is a hard climb but it is not as steep as the road up to Paracombe. It is not the Corkscrew. Depending on how many guys there are, you can get a sit. The question is that little kicker up to Woods Hill road where we do the ups and downs to Uraidla. That is key I think, right there.
"It is not going to be easy but we are ready for it. We know that Richie is our key and I think I will be second or third with Gerrans deciding on how I go in the first couple of stages. The way it is these days in the WorldTour, you have to pick one leader and stick with it unless something goes wrong. Richie is our guy."
Assisting Porte to the win last year, Dennis also held his own to finish in sixth place overall. Embarking on year two of his four-year GC plan, Dennis will be trying to keep his GC place as high as possible to help out Porte. However, he is confident that BMC has the strength in numbers and can spread the load in the team's quest for overall victory.
"Richie is one of the best climbers, if not the best climber in the world. Gerro is one of the best monument, one-day racers Australia has ever produced and myself, a time trialler. There is no time trial here, which is a bit of a shame for me otherwise I would be really keen to take the leadership," he said. "It is not easy to juggle the three different strengths but we have such a strong line-up. Not just us three. Danilo, it's almost a second home for him here. He has been here seven or eight times now I think. Miles being from Adelaide, Tom Bohli being his first time to Australia but super strong. And Pat Bevin, top-10 once before, so a strong line-up for us."
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