The last time the Herald Sun Tour visited Falls Creek was back in 2007 when now Orica-Scott director sportif Matt Wilson was wearing the leader's jersey. On that October afternoon it was Steve Morabito taking the victory with Wilson narrowly losing his race lead to Joost van Leien.
Wilson retook the jersey the next day and held on for a famous win but ten years on from his triumph, he doesn't see a change in the general classification lead eventuating.
On Thursday, Wilson is aiming to mastermind a stage win, and with it the yellow jersey, via the diminutive Colombian climber Esteban Chaves. The 27-year-old sits 64th overall following the opening night prologue but Wilson is confident his GC rider can better express himself on the long climb in his bid for victory after finishing second overall at last month's Tour Down Under.
Everyone is in really good condition," Wilson told Cyclingnews on the morning of stage 1. "Obviously, we've had a really good summer sop far. Guys, a lot of them here, have been racing since January 1 so we definitely have the condition. We are up against some pretty tough condition in Chris Froome but Esteban is going well so the best man will win today."
Not only is Wilson familiar with the climb, his seven-man squad is well acquainted with the col due it being a popular training location for Australian professionals and finish location of the Sun Tour in years gone by.
"Every person in our team has done this climb before," he explained. "So they all know it. It is a special sort of climb. Ok, it is 30km long but it is not normal. There is lots of up and down with recovery and you can quite often have a big group going into the final three of four kay."
Simon Gerrans and Chaves have both explained that they see however wins up Falls Creek as the overall winner in waiting, a belief that Wilson "100 per cent" expresses. Chief challenger to Orica-Scott and Chaves will be Sky's defending champion Chris Froome.
Wilson also suggests the potential for a dark horse to emerge and take the spoils if the two WorldTour teams of the race spend too much time and energy focusing on each other.
"There is always the chance that the gaps aren't huge and that something could happen during the week but all things being equal, I think the winner today will win the tour," said Wilson, adding that sees gaps of "20-30 seconds between the top ten guys" at the finish line.
"We looked through the list this morning and there are quite a lot of names that could be up there. Especially if a bit of poker goes on between us and Sky, you never know but there are a lot of dark horses."
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