The race is likely to be decided on the climb of Willunga Hill, which this year acts as the finale to the six-day race. Richie Porte - now of Trek-Segafredo - has won on Willunga five times, and although the Australian has only gone onto win the overall once, he started this year's race as the outright favourite.
"I'm going to try for GC," Poels told Cyclingnews from the race.
"We have done recon and it's going to be hard with the weather. I think the race suits me well. I've started the season well sometimes but in other years it takes me some time but we'll see. It would be nice to have a new winner on Willunga but we'll try."
Team Sky have come to the Tour Down Under with a mix of Classics, Grand Tour and one-day specialists. They have a squad that will take on a block of racing that also includes the Cadel Evans race and the Herald Sun Tour, with Poels expected to lead the line throughout the block of racing.
Poels is well versed in having opportunities in week-long and one-day races. However, since his move to Team Sky five years ago he has been utilized as a super domestique in Grand Tours. There was a top-ten in the 2017 Vuelta a España but that came after Chris Froome won the overall. The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of this season - regardless of the future of the team's sponsor hunt - but he is comfortable with his place at the British team.
"Two years ago I was sixth in the Vuelta when Chris won the Vuelta but I'm comfortable and have my own chances in other races," he told Cyclingnews.
"This is an important year for me again though because I need to make a choice about my next contract. If I could choose now I'd like to stay. When I signed again two years ago you're aware of the choice that you make. It might mean you have fewer opportunities but you take a risk knowing that you still have opportunities in other races. I get really good support, and I'm a better rider here than when I joined. There are a lot of pluses.
"I don't feel like I've lost an opportunity. Sixth in the Vuelta with another team is super amazing but when it happens here and Chris wins it's different."
Poels is likely to attract interest from several rival teams in the transfer market. Several squads will value his experience and ability to perform in a number of areas but the former Quick-Step rider is settled and believes that if the Team Sky management can find a new backer he would prefer to stay.
"Some things you have control over, some you don't but I believe in Dave Brailsford, and the people in the background. I think they'll find a sponsor but that's cycling. Some teams come and go. I was in the same situation with Vacansoleil. It's better to concentrate on your own performance and that of the team. You get respect back for the work that you do, especially in the Grand Tours."
This year Poels will aim for a number of week-long stage races and the Ardennes before focusing and preparing for the Tour de France.
"I'll try and go for the Tour again, so hopefully I'll be selected. In terms of my position, it depends on how it goes with climbing. Last year I had to do a bit more work early on and I had the Giro in my legs. If I can choose I prefer to be the last man but you need to have the legs for something like that."
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