Nathan Haas will lead the seven-man Katusha-Alpecin team at the 2019 Santos Tour Down Under in January, and will look to build on his past top-10 finishes in what will be his eighth appearance at the race.
Haas finished fourth overall at the Tour Down Under in 2017, but was critical of the 2018 race continuing in temperatures of over 40 degrees, and lost time as a result of the heat on stage 4.
Having been handed the opportunity to lead the team, Haas will be trying to build on his stage win at the Tour of Oman and third place overall at the Tour of Turkey in 2018.
Accompanying the Australian as he attempts to take top honours at his home race will be five-time British time trial champion Alex Dowsett – who'll be riding his second Tour Down Under having attended the 2012 edition as a member of Team Sky – and former Austrian road race champion Marco Haller.
They'll be joined by Classics specialist Jens Debusschere and former Portuguese road race champion Ruben Guerreiro – both new signings, from Lotto Soudal and Trek-Segafredo, respectively, for 2019 – as well as Russian duo Viacheslav Kuznetsov and Dmitrii Strakhov.
"To be frank, I don’t feel like any season would feel like it started without beginning here in Adelaide," Haas said in a press release on tourdownunder.com.au.
Haas will actually kick off his season at the Lexus Blackburn Bay Crits on New Year's Day – where Dowsett and Haller will also race – and will then likely head to the national championships later in the week before making the trip across to South Australia for the Down Under Classic on January 13, ahead of the start of the Tour Down Under two days later.
"I'm excited about the changes for the 2019 race, including the finale for the whole race being the 'Willunga showdown'. It's made the stage more special than it even was before," Haas said, referring to the decision to do away with the final circuit race in central Adelaide in favour of ending the race with a summit finish on Willunga Hill, which has traditionally been used on the penultimate day.
"Hats off to race director Mike Turtur and the whole crew at the TDU for creating such a well-rounded parcours," he said. "I think this race could be one for the history books."
Turtur added that he'll expect the 29-year-old to come to the race ready to make an impact on the general classification.
"Haas finished fourth overall at the 2017 race and fifth overall in 2014, so we know he will come to race hard and put on a show for the fans," he said.
Katusha-Alpecin for the 2019 Tour Down Under: Jens Debusschere, Alex Dowsett, Ruben Guerreiro, Nathan Haas, Marco Haller, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Dmitrii Strakhov