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André Greipel (HTC-Columbia) wins stage 2 of the Eneco Tour
First showdown of the new season will be in Adelaide
Fourteen teams have so-far announced their line-ups for the Tour Down Under and the early season Australian race looks set to have its strongest field ever when the action begins on January 16 with the Cancer Council Classic warm-up criterium.
The Tour Down Under is the first World Tour race of season and so the 18 major ProTeams will all be in Adelaide. It will almost certainly be Lance Armstrong's last race outside of the USA, and the Texan will be joined by Robbie McEwen, after he moved to the US team following the demise of Pegasus Sports.
The Tour Down Under is always an intense battle between the sprinters and things will be faster and more furious than ever before.
2010 overall winner and multiple stage winner Andrei Greipel wears number one but will be racing in a new jersey and for a new team after his move from HTC to Omega Pharma. He has dominated the sprints since 2008 but will face McEwen, a Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo), Allan Davis (Astana), Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step), Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Graeme Brown (Rabobank). The battle between Greipel and Cavendish will be emotionally charged and perhaps tops the bill. But whoever comes out on top will have the early bragging right as faster sprinter in the sport.
Other big names so far included in the seven-rider teams include Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad), Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step) and Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil).
Team Sky has selected new signing Michael Rogers plus Matt Hayman, Simon Gerrans and Geraint Thomas, plus sprinters Greg Henderson, Christopher Sutton and Ben Swift.
Local hero Stuart O'Grady will lead the new Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project squad, while Richie Porte heads the Saxo Bank team with fellow Australians Baden Cooke and David Tanner. Under 23 world champion Michael Matthews will make his big-time professional debut and go shoulder to shoulder with the sprinters as part of the Rabobank team
The 14 teams (and their riders) named so far:
Ag2r: Dimitri Champion, Kristof Goddaert, Blel Kadri, Julien Loubet, Matthieu Perget, Mickaël Chérel and Steve Houanard.
Astana: Allan Davis, Simon Clarke, Tanel Kangert, Valentin Iglinskiy, Maxim Gourov, Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy and Andriy Grivko.
BMC: Alessandro Ballan, Alexander Kristoff, John Murphy, Simon Zahner, Timothy Roe, Martin Kohler and Amael Moinard.
Euskaltel-Euskadi: Rubén Pérez, Iñaki Isasi, Gorka Izagirre, Iván Velasco, Miguel Minguez, Daniel Sesma and Ion Izagirre.
HTC-High Road: Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Matt Goss, Hayden Roulston,, Mark Renshaw and Danny Pate.
bCameron Wurf, Kristjan Koren, Davide Cimolai, Simone Ponzi, Alan Marangoni, Fabio Sabatini and Elia Viviani.
Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project: William Clarke, Martin Pedersen, Martin Mortensen, Stefan Denifl, Bruno Pires, Stuart O'Grady and Davide Viganò.
Omega Pharma-Lotto: André Greipel, Mario Aerts, Adam Hansen, Olivier Kaisen, Vicente Reynes, Jurgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.
Quick Step: Francesco Chicchi, Gerald Ciolek, Julien Vermote, Marco Bandiera, Addy Engels, Francesco Reda and Davide Malacarne.
Rabobank: Michael Matthews, Graeme Brown, Thomas Leezer, Jos Van Emden, Laurens Ten Dam, Pieter Weening and Coen Vermeltfoort.
RadioShack: Lance Armstrong, Markel Irizar, Sebastian Rosseler, Robbie McEwen, Gregory Rast, Ben Hermans and Manuel Cardoso.
Saxo Bank-SunGard: Richie Porte, Juan José Haedo, Baden Cooke, David Tanner, Sebastián Haedo, Brian Vandborg and Nicki Sorensen.
Team Sky: Michael Rogers, Simon Gerrans, Geraint Thomas, Greg Henderson, Christopher Sutton, Mathew Hayman and Ben Swift.
Vacansoleil: Romain Feillu, Mirko Selvaggi, Sergey Lagutin, Joost van Leijen and Thomas de Gendt.