Matt White is under no illusion of the enormous task facing his Mitchelton-Scott team as they look to bounce back after two draining days at the Tour Down Under. The first WorldTour race of the year has seen the CCC Team's Patrick Bevin put 15 seconds into Mitchelton-Scott's leader Daryl Impey, but there are still four days to go until the race hits the final stage 6 to the decisive Willunga Hill.
Bevin has been aggressive throughout the race, first picking up five intermediate seconds on stage 1 and then overpowering the pure sprinters on stage 2 to take the first WorldTour victory of his career. Although he only holds a five-second lead over Elia Viviani, the real GC contenders such as last year's winner Impey, Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) are 15 seconds down.
"Look, Bevin's in very good shape, he's in very good shape. It's the first time he's probably had leadership at a race like this and he's a class bike rider and a very good all-rounder so for me, there's your target right there to win the Tour. Fifteen seconds is a lot, and I think 20 seconds for a guy like him would nearly guarantee him the win of the Tour so he's got a little bit of work to do, but there are also stages that suit him over the next couple of days. That's what everybody's going to be chasing from now," White told Cyclingnews at the end of stage 2.
The Tour Down Under often comes down to just a few seconds, and although there are three difficult days to come - plus one sprint stage - Bevin has looked unbeatable so far. Now in the race, it will be interesting to see if he carries on with his aggressive tactic or attempts to utilize his team. The CCC Team do not have the depth that some of the rivals do, and stage 3 contains over 3,000 metres of climbing.
"It's the toughest course I think we've probably ever seen at this race," White said of this year's race.
"The temperatures look like they're 39 degrees tomorrow, so it'll be the third day in a row with pretty high temperatures. So, it'll either go one way or the other, it could go quite negative but I'm sure there'll be a team or two that will want to spice it up tomorrow.
"We've got two intermediate sprints in the first 19 kilometres, a very steep, categorized climb and then you're on the circuit. The circuit is pretty relentless, so it's got potential to certainly bust up the race pretty good.
"The circuit will be pretty selective, I don't think the pure sprinters are going to get around tomorrow, but also, you're still going to have Peter Sagan, you're going to have Pat Bevin, a few of our guys will be there, [Diego] Ulissi, there's the young world champion that nobody's speaking about, the one that won [Tour de] l'Avenir, the Slovenian kid [Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). People who stalk Strava know that he ripped up Corkscrew pretty fast a few days ago, five seconds faster than Richie Porte, so he's not here for a holiday."
White also predicts that Mitchelton-Scott will have more opportunities as the race unfolds. Impey will be relishing the chance to take on Bevin in a reduced bunch sprint, while the Australian team will likely attempt to isolate the race leader. They are not the only team that need to test the race leader, however, with Bahrain-Merida, UAE Team Emirates and Trek-Segafredo all running out of time and needing to bring back time on Bevin before the final stage up Willunga Hill.
"Look, we're going to get a better idea of who's in super shape tomorrow that's for sure.
"[Daryl Impey] He's good, he's good. We've had two days that aren't really for us. We didn't get anything out of them, but it would've been nice. Pat Bevin's got a nice win and a head start but I think tomorrow is going to be more down our alley."
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