Domenico Pozzovivo will make his Bahrain-Merida debut later this month at the Tour Down Under. Spanish brothers Ion and Gorka Izagirre will co-lead the team's GC aspirations with the latter to also make his debut for the WorldTour team. Teammates at Euskaltel-Euskadi and Movistar, the Izagirre brothers are again united at Bahrain-Merida.
Pozzovivo, who spent the last five seasons with AG2R-La Mondiale, has started his season at the Tour Down Under since 2015 with seventh place overall in 2016 his best result to date.
"I'm just working to be in a good shape at the start of TDU 2018. My objective will be to reach the top 10 in GC, with a good performance in the two hilly stages (stages four and five)," said Pozzovivo. "I think we have a very good roster at the start of this race and for me it's always a pleasure to start the season in South Australia because of the good weather, the beautiful roads to race and a very competent public (crowds) following every stage."
Ion Izagirre has also previously raced the Tour Down Under but hasn't done so since 2013. The 28-year-old hasn't pinned on a race number since his Tour de France crash in which he fractured his lumbar but recently told Cyclingnews that he is excited and ready for the new season.
"I have already raced the TDU two times and I know which kind of stages are there," he said. "It's a good race to start the season, it's summer, short stages, not too many transfers. We go with Pozzovivo and my brother, which is very important to me. So in my opinion, we are going to have a very strong team there."
At the 2017 Tour Down Under, Gorka Izagirre was sitting second overall before a high-speed crash on stage 3 ended his GC aspirations as he eventually finished 28th overall.
With all three riders impressing in one-week races across their careers, sports director Tristan Hoffman has high expectations of the trio across the six stages.
"Domenico and the Izagirre brothers will share the leadership. Ion has been recovering well after Tour de France," said Hoffman. "Gorka finished 8th in GC in 2015. Domenico joined both of the training camps and showed his great personality. I look forward to seeing him again on the road. We hope all 3 riders finish at top 10."
Sidelined for the majority of the 2017 season with a cardiac 'anomaly', Ramunas Navardauskas returns to racing action at the Tour Down Under. Completing the line up for the Tour Down Under is Italian duo Manuele Boaro and Valerio Agnoli, and Yukiya Arashiro of Japan.
The Tour Down Under takes place around Adelaide, South Australia from 14-21 January.
Bahrain-Merida for the 2018 Tour Down Under: Domenico Pozzovivo, Jon Izagurre, Gorka Izagurre, Manuele Boaro, Ramunas Navardauskas, Yukiya Arashiro and Valerio Agnoli.