Wouter Wippert returns to the Tour Down Under 12-months on from his final day stage win with his new Cannondale team looking for a repeat victory. The 25-year-old, who won nine races in the two seasons he spent with the Drapac Pro-Continental team, explained to Cyclingnews that starting the Australian WorldTour race was a factor in signing on the dotted line for Cannondale.
"One the requests when I signed with the team was can I please start with the team at Down Under again. I like training but I am pro cyclist because I like racing more so I am happy to start in Down Under and start the season early," Wippert told Cyclingnews.
"Compared to last year, the week before Tour Down Under I am three kilos lighter so it's going to be a bit easier I guess," he said by way of comparison to his approach to the race 12-months apart. "Training has gone really well the last couple of weeks so I think I am ready and everything should be a bit better than last year and hopefully the result as well."
Wippert is looking to hit the ground running at the Tour Down Under, aiming for victory on stage one to match the efforts of fellow new recruit Paddy Bevin who won his first race in the green argyle. The Dutch fast man added that he isn't limiting himself to just one stage win, also eying off the finishes in Victor Harbour and Adelaide.
"The main goal is going to be stage one, four and six," he said. "In normal circumstances they will finish in a bunch sprint but you never know of course. It would be really good, not just for me but for the team as well to start well and get some rest for the remainder of the week. We are going to try our best the first day."
Four of Cannondale's seven starters make their racing debut with the team at the Tour Down Under. With the riders having the better part of a week to train together, Wippert believes that while it be will be plenty of time to iron out the creases, racing is a different beast to training.
"We'll fine-tune everything a little bit more, then it should be all right for next week," he said. "It's going to be hard because it's going to be the first race all together and we all are pretty young so probably we’ll miss out one day, because we go wrong or something else, but I am pretty sure its going to work out soon."
Wippert will be up against two sprinters he knows rather well in former Drapac teammate Brenton Jones, and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) but there are several other names to watch according to the Dutchman.
"Of course Ewan, not even because he was good in the last couple of weeks but it's his home country and the team's, so the pressure is going to be on for GreenEdge and everyone knows that," he said of his rival. "I don't think they have any problems handling that with a team like that. There are some other guys like Nathan Haas who was pretty good at the nationals and he'll be motivated. [Matteo] Pelucchi, [Giacomo] Nizzolo … there are a couple guys and it won't be easy but it's always possible to do the difficult."
Asked whether a stage win would mean more personally than his 2015 success, Wippert explained "It would make it really easy to start with a win and first race with a new team you can start with a victory would be amazing. It's also going to be hard, last year I was two times third and had one win. It's actually not that easy to get that much better but we are going to try."
In 2015 Wippert had Tom Southam's voice in his ear as sports director for all but one race. At the Tour Down Under, Wippert will have Fabrizio Guidi calling the shots and believes the former professional cyclist can help orchestrate a stage win or two.
"Last year it was Tom in every race, I think I did one race without him, and now we have six sports directors so it's a little bit different," Wippert said. "Fabrizio is my contact person in the team so that's good. He's my coach and I know him pretty well with the previous contact we've had. I am happy he's here and with his background it will be pretty good for me as well."
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