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Cavendish, Kwiatkowski and Quintana ready for the Tour de San Luis

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Mark Cavendish looks comfortable on his Specialized track bike

Mark Cavendish looks comfortable on his Specialized track bike
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Nairo Quintana (Movistar) surrounded by Colombian tifosi on the climb to Monte Zoncolan

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) surrounded by Colombian tifosi on the climb to Monte Zoncolan
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) after losing out in Paris-Tours

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) after losing out in Paris-Tours
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) wins in Bristol.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) wins in Bristol.
(Image credit: Rob Lampard)

When the Tour Down Under began life in 1999, it was the only game in town for riders looking to shorten the winter by racing beneath the sun at a time when the majority of their rivals were still training in frigid temperatures in Europe.

The landscape has changed emphatically since then, of course, amid cycling’s ongoing globalisation and its ever-expanding calendar. Rather than a novelty, the early start is now bordering on de rigueur as far as some are concerned, and the Tour Down Under is by no means the lone show in the southern hemisphere in January.

Now in its ninth edition, the Tour de San Luis has enjoyed an upsurge in its popularity in recent years and its status is now such that when the 2015 season gets underway this week, attention will be divided more or less equally between Argentina and Australia.