Amanda Spratt says that the Santos Women's Tour Down Under is again a "big target" for her this season. The 31-year-old Australian heads to the four-day stage race next week – which runs from January 10-13 – as the defending champion, having also won in 2017.
Spratt will head up a strong six-rider Mitchelton-Scott team that also includes Gracie Elvin, new signing Grace Brown and New Zealand's Georgia Williams, who successfully defended her national time trial title on Friday morning.
"Returning to a race as the defending champion is great – even more so when it's in Australia in front of a home crowd," Spratt said in a press release.
"I haven't returned to many races as a defending champion, so it definitely makes this Tour Down Under even more special for me.
"I can't wait to be back in Adelaide. I have such great memories from this race, and I would love to create some more," she said. "It's a big target for me, and the mixture of stages should suit me, but also our whole team, so I'm excited to see what we can do together there.
"'TDU time is such a special time to be a cyclist in Australia. The whole atmosphere around the race is incredible," Spratt said.
First up for Spratt are the National Championships in Ballarat and Buninyong this weekend, with Spratt expected to line up for both Friday's criterium and the road race on Sunday – with Spratt a winner of the latter in 2012 and 2016 – before travelling to South Australia early next week.
"With some new big teams [Trek-Segafredo, CCC-Liv] at the start line, I expect the Tour Down Under to be a great race with strong competition, and we could see different scenarios this year that will make our title defence more difficult," said Mitchelton-Scott head sports director Martin Vestby.
"But we have a strong team at the start and more cards to play. 'Spratty' will for sure be one of our leaders, and the course suits her, but she isn't our only option, which will keep teams guessing.
"The 2019 course has a stage for every kind of rider, so there are opportunities for everyone," he said.
Mitchelton-Scott for the 2019 Santos Women's Tour Down Under: Grace Brown, Gracie Elvin, Lucy Kennedy, Sarah Roy, Amanda Spratt, Georgia Williams