Australian stage race the Jayco-Herald Sun Tour, starting October 9, has an increased overseas contingent this year, with international riders making up half the peloton.
Given the record number the internationals, it looks likely that invited riders will continue the domination of the Tour that has seen them claim 16 of the last 18 titles. With the start lists now available, a total of 144 riders will participate in this year's Tour, including a record of 72 internationals representing 16 countries.
Last year's winner Jonas Ljungblad from Sweden returns, with a full line-up from the Italian Amore & Vita squad ensuring the versatile Swede will be difficult to beat.
American Danny Pate is another pre-race favourite and will join last year's third place rider Ben Brooks (NSW) in the Jelly Belly - Pool Gel team. Pate is searching to become the seventh American to win the Tour.
The Australian assault will be led by 2002 winner Baden Cooke, Athens Olympic gold medallist Brett Lancaster and 2005 Tour de France debutant Simon Gerrans. All three grew up in country Victoria and have watched countless editions of the ‘Sun Tour' pass through their town as they developed their passion for the bikes.
Cooke grew up in Benella and is keen to recapture the form that took him the Tour de France sprint title in 2003. He won't have his FDJ teammate Brad McGee for company, the 2004 Athens Olympic gold medalist unable to ride due to a back injury.
Lancaster still calls Shepparton home and will be looking to take out Stage Three when it gallops into town next week. The 25 year-old was a member of the Australian teams pursuit outfit that won gold in Athens and early this year he won the prologue and wore the pink leaders jersey at the Giro d'Italia.
Gerrans grew up in Jamieson in the Victorian high country and had Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson as a neighbour. Gerrans won the stage into Mansfield last year and went on to reach the podium during a mountain stage of this year's Tour de France, his debut Tour.
The full team list includes: Amore & Vita, FDJ, AG2r Prevoyance, Ireland (national team), Japan presented by Latrobe City, Shimano, Bridgestone Anchor, Jelly Belly - Pool Gel, Australia (national team), Colnago - Caravello, Savings and Loans, HLP/Superstore, VIS Jayco, Cyclingnews.com - Fondriest, MG Xpower presented by BigPond, Davitamon - Lotto, Netherlands (national team), Recycling.co.uk/Litespeed.