Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) believes that this year's Tour Down Under has one of the strongest GC fields yet, and that Woet Poels (Team Sky) and Michael Woods (EF Education First) could be two of his main rivals for the overall.
Porte has had a successful run at his home race, winning six stages over the past five years and the GC two years ago. In 2018 he lost out to Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), despite winning the 'queen stage' on Willunga Hill for the fifth time in a row.
This year, the race organisers have added the famous Corkscrew climb once more, and moved Willunga Hill to the final day of racing. In previous years, the race has concluded with a downtown criterium in Adelaide.
"It's going to be pretty exciting to have the finish at Willunga and going two times up there. It's uncharted territory, really," Porte told reporters before a training ride on Thursday morning.
"The race won't be over until the last kilometre. Willunga has been good to me in the last few years. Hopefully we can continue that this year. This year we've maybe got the strongest field. We've got guys like Woet Poels and Michael Woods. They're in really good shape for this race, but that's motivating as well."
Porte arrives at the race in new team colours after signing with Trek-Segafredo after three years at BMC Racing. He lines up at the Tour Down Under with a team devoted to his GC ambitions and the likes of Peter Stetina and Jarlinson Pantano set to protect the Australian on the key climbs of the race.
"All that said, this is one of the strongest teams I've had at the Tour Down Under. The boys are motivated so it would be nice to start my Trek-Segafredo days with a victory," he said.
"Obviously, I'm starting with a new team and that's uncharted territory, but for me it's really business as usual. You have a new motivation when you start with a new team. We've got a really good team and I think we can challenge for the win. It's a great race, and it's great to be starting in Australia."
A key factor in the race could be the heat, with temperatures expected to rise over the coming days. Last year the organisers intervened and neutralised parts of the race under the UCI's weather protocol. Porte understands that the health of the riders is the main priority but he also welcomed the idea of racing under tough and hot conditions, adding that it could be an advantage for a rider like him who's spent significant time in Australia over recent weeks.
"Bring it on. For those that have been here a bit longer, they've acclimatised a bit better. It's good to see the Europeans suffer when they get here. The heat really takes it out of guys who haven't been here for as long. The race organisers have done a great job, though, in the last couple of years of using common sense and shortening the race if needed," said Porte.
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