The opening round of next year's ProTour, the Santos Tour Down Under, received another boost overnight as organisers announced that Mark Cavendish will ride the 2011 event.
Following the news that both Tyler Farrar and defending champion André Greipel will compete, Cavendish's appearance is a massive coup for the South Australian capital of Adelaide and Australian cycling fans.
It will be the first race for Greipel and Cavendish to race each other on opposing teams, after the German announced his departure from HTC-Columbia this year in search of leadership status at Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Cavendish was most recently in Australia for the UCI Road World Championships in Geelong, Victoria, and will be returning in Jaunary for a race he has never started in a country with which he is familiar.
"It's great that I'll be starting my season at the Santos Tour Down Under," said Cavendish. "I have been to Australia six or seven times and I love going there. After spending time again there recently at world championships, I'm eager to get back there for some more racing."
Cavendish has won 15 stages of the Tour de France so far in his career and was the 2009 Milan-San Remo champion. This season he experienced a difficult start to the season and is hopeful he can begin 2011 in better fashion.
The grudge match between the Manxman and Greipel promises to be a feature of the week of racing, which begins on January 18, preceeded by the Cancer Council Down Under Classic - a star-studded criterium on Adelaide's streets - two days earlier.
With Farrar in the mix and the American aiming to condition himself for the Spring Classics, the racing should be the best yet with sprinters generally dominating the overall classification at Australia's premier stage race.
"It's going to be great to watch Cavendish and Greipel go head-to-head in Adelaide. They are superb sprinters and it will be fascinating to see who will come out on top," said race director Mike Turtur.
The absence of Australian riders Michael Rogers and Adam Hansen plus Greipel from HTC-Highroad's lineup won't change the team's approach to the event. "We will start with a very strong roster and we want to target GC and stage wins," said team manager Rolf Aldag.
"We have proven that this is possible and everybody knows of the importance of the race. The organisation is perfect, with big support from the local crowd and we are looking forward to start our racing there."
HTC-Highroad for Santos Tour Down Under: Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Matt Goss, Hayden Roulston, Mark Renshaw and Danny Pate.
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