As one of the pre-race favourites for a tougher Santos Tour Down Under than what has been evidenced in the past, Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen is hoping to make his mark early on in the six-stage event which kicks of the UCI WorldTour.
Sky has a top line-up at the Australian race with the Norwegian joining in-form locals Chris Sutton, Michael Rogers and Mathew Hayman with Geraint Thomas, Alex Dowsett, and Danny Pate also in attendance.
Boasson Hagen remained reasonably coy about his own form while admitting that Stage 2, from Lobethal to Stirling had piqued his interest.
"It's just the first race and I hope to go quite good but it's not the main goal," the 24-year-old explained. "Of course I want to try and win it and see how we can manage to do it.
"If I manage to get to the podium for the GC and I win a stage it will be a really good start to the year but it's not going to be sad if I don't manage to get on the podium."
Boasson Hagen, as an all-rounder is said to have a better chance for overall honours than what has been witnessed in previous editions of the now 14-year-old stage race. He joins defending champion Cameron Meyer, Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) as a rider to watch with sprinters the likes of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) no longer expected to be in the mix when it comes to overall honours.
"The Willunga stage is going to change it a little bit," the 2009 Gent-Wevelgem winner said, citing the hilltop finish that has been included for the first time for the queen stage. "Still it's a hard climb but it's not that steep so it can be a fairly big group going up there. But of course if someone goes hard from the bottom it's going to be hard to keep up with them."
Boasson Hagen, who won two stages of the Tour de France in 2011, explained that starting his season at the Tour Down Under should give him the impetus he required for a tilt at the Classics come the spring.
"After the race I'll be going for the cobblestone classics like Paris-Roubaix which is the main goal and Flanders as well, I want to do good there," he said.
He also dismissed the notion that with the inclusion of Mark Cavendish in the Sky line-up and Brad Wiggins chasing overall victory, his opportunities to target stage wins at the Tour de France would be limited in 2012.
"At the Tour de France I will try to get a stage win there but also help Team Sky to get the good results," Boasson Hagen said. "The main goal is to get stage wins with Mark and ride a good GC with Bradley - but I think there's a lot of stages so I can work for my own chances."
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