Valverde to ride Tour Down Under

Spanish star heads to Australia with strong Caisse contingent

Australian cycling fans will be treated to another star appearance when Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde rides the Santos Tour Down Under next January.

With the return of Lance Armstrong and the appearance of road race world champion Cadel Evans, the addition of Valverde to the startlist further increases the quality of the field and the anticipation for the year's first ProTour event.

This year's Vuelta a España winner will ride alongside 2005 Tour Down Under champion and Tour de France stage winner Luis Leon Sánchez, with Jose Rojas again making the trip to Australia to contest the fast finishes. Led by team manager Neil Stephens, the squad stands a good chance of clinching the title.

Rojas will be a major threat to the overall favourites, keeping the likes of Allan Davis, Robbie McEwen and Graeme Brown honest in their fight for the ochre leader's jersey. "There are a lot of riders in this Caisse d'Epargne team who could do well at our race in January. [Jose] Rojas was impressive here in 2009, winning the Cycle Instead Young Rider Jersey and finishing third in the GC. Rojas will certainly be one to watch in 2010," said race director Mike Turtur.

It's likely Valverde will garner the most attention however, the Ardennes Classics star looking to gain some early-season form ahead of another campaign in southern Belgium next April.

"Caisse d'Epargne is bringing an impressively strong team with them to Adelaide. With the likes of Valverde, Sánchez and Gutierrez it’s got the calibre of a Grand Tour team," added Turtur. "There will now be three Grand Tour winners competing at the Santos Tour Down Under - Valverde, Pereiro and Armstrong."

Caisse d'Epargne's Santos Tour Down Under lineup: Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa), Jose Rojas (Spa), Ivan Gutierrez (Spa), Jose Garcia (Spa), Mathieu Drujon (Fra), Mathieu Perget (Fra).

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