German sprinter André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) will return to the Tour Down Under in 2018 after a three-year absence, hoping the race where he twice won the overall and has a record 16 stage wins can provide a proper jump start to his season.
Greipel, 35, debuted at the race in 2008, the first year it appeared on the UCI's then-Pro Tour, promptly winning four of six stages and claiming the overall. He added another stage win 2009, then took three stage wins and the overall again in 2010. With the addition of more climbs like the one in Willunga, Greipel would never again win the overall, but he added three more stage wins in each of 2012 and 2013, then two more the next year.
In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Greipel chose to start his season at the Mallorca Challenge, but he said this week he'll be back in Adelaide for the 20th running of the Tour Down Under in January
"It's a pleasure for me to go back, as it was always good to start a hopefully successful season," Greipel said in an announcement published on the race website.
"It is a really established and professionally organised race with riders of high quality taking part, and I have seen the race develop over the years to a high standard WorldTour event - an example for race organisers globally," Greipel said. "The first wins and points to earn for my team and it would be nice, and of course I'm looking forward to the fantastic atmosphere."
With world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) already signaling they'll compete in Australia in January, Greipel will have plenty of competition if he wants to add to his record 16 stage wins.
Race director Mike Turtur welcomed Greipel's return, saying he can still remember the German's overall win in his 2008 debut.
"He took the general classification by just seconds on Aussie Allan Davis – it was the start of an amazing season for André," Turtur said. "After the 2008 TDU victory at the start of his season, Greipel went on to his first Grand Tour stage win at the Giro d'Italia so, the we've always provided him with a strong start to his season.
"There's no question André and his team always mean business when they come to race here," Tutur said. "The explosive power of these cyclists is a force to be reckoned with, and we know how much fans enjoy watching Greipel storm home for a sprint finish, so we hope he can add to his Santos Tour Down Under stage win record next January."
The six-stage WorldTour opener starts January 16.