Impey chases back-to-back Tour Down Under titles in extreme heat

South Africa's Daryl Impey is bidding to become the first cyclist to win back-to-back titles at Australia's Tour Down Under as the race gets under way in sweltering conditions around Adelaide on Tuesday.

Mitchelton-Scott’s Impey won last year’s UCI season-opening event on countback from Australia’s Richie Porte for the biggest victory of his career, and went on to have his most successful season in 2018.

No one has won consecutive titles in the 20 years of the Tour Down Under. But with only one arduous uphill stage finish this year, where last year he finished second behind Porte, Impey is primed for a repeat.

“Australia has and always will be important for us,” Impey said. “We would definitely like to win the Tour Down Under again and we are arriving to try to do just that.

“For me personally, it would be great to win back-to-back. No one has done that.”

The six-stage race takes place in the south of the country on the streets of Adelaide and through the surrounding countryside.

With extreme temperatures of 40 Celsius (104F) and above forecast for much of the event, race organisers along with team and rider representatives have made the decision to modify the race route for Tuesday’s opening stage.

Based on the severe conditions forecast of buffeting winds the 3.4-km (2.1-mile) finishing circuit will be removed, putting the total distance of Stage 1 at 129 km, organisers said.

The tour begins with expected sprints on the three opening stages before the Corkscrew climb returns on stage four.

The signature climb on the tour up Willunga Hill has been moved to the final day, ensuring that the race for the ochre jersey will go right down to the wire.

Last year’s runner-up Porte, who stormed to a 48-second win over Colombian rider Esteban Chavez in the 2017 edition to claim his maiden victory in the race, has won the gruelling Willunga uphill stage for the last five years.

Slovakia’s three-time former world champion Peter Sagan is back again for the German Bora-Hansgrohe team after finishing second three times at the TDU in 2017 and then last year winning the fourth stage to temporarily take the overall lead of the race.

The strong Team Sky has not won a stage at the Tour Down Under since last year’s Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas conquered the Corkscrew in 2013. This year Team Sky will be led by Dutchman Wout Poels.

Poels, 31, has been a key lieutenant at the Tour de France and won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He is making his TDU debut.

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