Porte, a five-time winner of the queen stage of the race and overall champion in 2017, moved to Trek-Segafredo in the winter after three fruitful years at BMC Racing Team. Although Trek-Segafredo lack depth in other areas compared to BMC, the 2018 Tour de Suisse winner believes that two of his new Trek teammates in Jarlinson Pantano and Peter Stetina could make the difference on Willunga Hill this year.
“I think that maybe the course was a bit better suited to me two years ago with the climb of Paracombe but it’s nice for me to come here in January. It’s a fantastic race and a great way to start the year,” Porte said at the event’s pre-race press conference on Saturday.
“Coming here to Trek-Segafredo, it’s a good team with a good mix. We’re good for the Classics too. Even here it’s more of stronger team than I’ve ever been in for stages like Willunga. We’ve got guys like Stetina and Pantano who can light it up there. Whereas we had to have Rohan Dennis sacrifice his own chance on Willunga for me last year at BMC. We’ve got guys like Koen de Kort, who is one of the most experienced when it comes to the cross-winds too. It’s a solid team and hopefully it can continue for the rest of the year.”
While the race is likely to be decided by the stages at Corkscrew and Willunga, many riders have predicted that stage 3 to Uraidla has the potential to be just as crucial. The first two stages are set for the sprinters, and although stage 3 doesn’t have a summit finish, there is still over 3,500m of climbing across the 142.6km course. The heat could add to the difficulty, with temperatures expected to tip over 40 degrees during the race.
“That stage just depends on how it’s ridden. It’s a tricky, hard stage. We’ll see how it is. If it’s a hot day and the peloton doesn’t feel like it then it could mean nothing, but looking at the course, if the proverbial hits the fan then it could be a good fight.”
Porte certainly comes into the Tour Down Under as the main favourite. That said, he is well versed in handling the pressure his home race puts on his shoulders. And the fact that he is starting afresh with Trek-Segafredo appears to be a motivating factor. On signing Porte, Trek-Segafredo outlined that they wanted him to compete in the week-long stage races and take a less stressful approach going into the Tour de France in July. Porte has cashed out of the last two Tours on stage 9.
“It’s always nice to start with a new team. I’ve not done a lot of time with the boys, but I know most of the guys. We can hit the ground running,” Porte said.
“It would be nice to get through stage 9. It’s been a dark day the last two years for me. When I signed with Trek-Segafredo the Tour wasn’t the be all and end all. They want me to come and win the races that I’ve already won and then we’ll go to the Tour and see what happens.”
Cyclingnews will have complete live coverage of the Down Under Classic on Sunday and the Tour Down Under, which starts on January 15.