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Gerrans, Chavez target tour's second stage

AAP logoAAP 9/01/2017 Roger Vaughan

Orica-Scott's strong Tour Down Under team will aim to wreak havoc on the steep Paracombe climb as they try to repeat their domination of a year ago.

Four-time and defending Tour champion Simon Gerrans will be co-leader of their squad alongside Colombian star Esteban Chavez.

They will also have sprinter Caleb Ewan and he will work with German recruit Roger Kluge for the first time at the January 15-22 race.

Orica-Scott have signed Kluge to help Ewan in the sprint finishes.

Apart from Gerrans' overall win, he also won two stages last year.

Ewan won another two stages and he took out the Down Under Classic, the Adelaide street race held two days before the Tour itself.

Orica-Scott team director Matt White said it would be a hard act to follow.

Two years after Rohan Dennis set up his Tour Down Under title by winning at Paracombe, it looms even more prominently in this year's edition.

While the second-last stage at Willunga remains the defining moment of the race, stage two starts in the Adelaide Hills and features even more climbing than two years ago ahead of the Paracombe summit finish.

"The changes to the second stage into Paracombe make it the new queen stage and we will have a pretty good idea of how the field is going at the end of it," White said.

"Instead of a 1.8km climb to finish we will have 20-odd minutes of climbing, and we have two quality options in Gerrans and Chaves depending on how the stage is raced.

"The Willunga stage will still be where the Tour Down Under is won or lost, but by the time we arrive at this day the general classification situation will be a lot clearer."

Orica-Scott boast strong form coming out of the season-opening Bay Classic and then the road nationals.

Ewan bounced back quickly from his January 1 crash, winning the last race of the Bay Classic series and then successfully defending his Australian criterium title.

He also featured in the main breakaway at the Australian championships road race on Sunday, where Gerrans finished second.

While disappointed not to win, Gerrans said he was pleased with his form after being sick around Christmas.

Luke Durbridge also had an outstanding ride on Sunday and he will have a domestique role at the Tour for Orica-Scott alongside Damien Howson, Kluge and Daryl Impey.

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