World champion Peter Sagan is understandably the big star of this year’s Tour Down Under that starts Tuesday.
But from a field of overall contenders that race director Mike Turtur has labelled as “the strongest we’ve had in the history of the race,” it will not be Sagan who his Bora-hansgrohe team will try to get up for the best possible finish.
It will be Australian Jay McCarthy who placed fourth overall in the six-day event last year, and showed with his 11th place at last Sunday’s Australian road championship in Buninyong that he is again in the form needed to be up there again.
“My goal is not to crash …”, said the world champion. “We have Jay McCarthy here, and it’s a big race for him,” Sagan said on Saturday. “We want to help him for the GC, and we will see what the legs can do. To win? I don’t think so.
“There are some difficult stages. I am open-minded [about his own winning hopes], but we can figure that out day by day in the race. Jay McCarthy is better for that kind of finish.
“For sure, my goal is not to crash, and come out of this race in good shape. It’s the first race, good weather, and it’s already important to take the race rhythm in the legs.
“I saw the stage two finish, and it’s not impossible, but very hard in this period of the season. We will also see Willunga.
“I remember that from 2010 [when he last raced at the Tour Down Under as a neo-pro,] because I don’t know what condition I have now. The heat? Until 30C, I am OK. Over 30C, it is tough. Some stages are long, but not super-long.”