Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan will start his season in Adelaide, Australia, for the third year in a row when he lines up for the Tour Down Under in January next year, race director Mike Turtur announced on Monday.
The current world champion enjoyed huge crowd support in both 2017 and 2018, and will be welcomed again in 2019.
"To have the most popular rider in the world coming back is terrific," Turtur told Cyclingnews. "It's not only Peter's ability as a bike rider that attracts spectators, but also the way he races: his aggression on the bike. And then off the bike, his laid-back attitude and his just-get-on-with-the-job approach is appreciated by a lot of people, too, I think."
Starting his season in Australia clearly suits the 28-year-old Slovakian: Sagan went on to win Gent-Wevelgem in March and Paris-Roubaix in April this year, before winning the Slovakian national championships and a stage of the Tour de Suisse in June, and three stages at the Tour de France, where he also won his sixth green points jersey.
"To have Peter come here earlier this year and then do very well during the rest of the season – as well as riders like Pierre Latour, Michael Valgren, Marc Soler and Egan Bernal, who all went well this year – means that teams and riders look closely at where those riders were in January, especially when considering form for the spring Classics," said Turtur.
"You've got to really get going early to be in good form, and to start here and get some good results is a great set-up for not only those spring Classics, which are really important to the teams, but also for the rest of the year."
The chances of Sagan once again being clad in the rainbow jersey of world champion next January, however, are slim, as the tough circuit for the Worlds road race in Innsbruck, Austria, at the end of next month is more suited to climbers.
"I still wouldn't count him out of the Worlds – he's that type of rider that could do anything on his day if he's got good legs," Turtur laughed. "But certainly the course in Austria is difficult, and would suggest that it would be a big challenge for him. But he's also the Slovakian road champion, so he'll still be in his national champion's jersey."
Fans in Australia will therefore have no problem picking him out – although there's a good chance that he'll soon be wearing one of the Tour Down Under's leaders' jerseys, as he did at last year's TDU after winning stage 4, which gave him the ochre leader's jersey.
Sagan had to let the race lead go on the penultimate stage to Willunga Hill, but still came away from last year's race with the green points jersey.
He now heads to the Vuelta a España, and Turtur expects to be able to announce more big names for the Tour Down Under once the Vuelta and Worlds are over in early October.
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