The first race of the 2017 WorldTour, the Tour Down Under, begins next Tuesday, January 17, with riders testing their legs in the People’s Choice Classic criterium two days beforehand.
With the majority of teams having confirmed their line-ups for the Australian race, and many riders already in Adelaide, Cyclingnews has picked its five riders to watch for this year’s race. With the top three overall from 2016, four former winners and numerous stage winners lining up in Adelaide, a quality field of riders have chosen to make their season debuts at the Australian race.
Simon Gerrans has won the Tour Down Under four times and again leads the Orica-Scott team, with support from Esteban Chaves, while Caleb Ewan will also fight for stage victories. Gerrans finished second in the Australian national championships and is looking to make history by being only the second rider to win back-to-back editions of the season-opener.
Richie Porte (BMC) has often been Gerrans' biggest rival and has finished second for the last two years. He finished his 2016 season early after crashing out of the Rio Olympics and is BMC's team leader for the Tour de France, but will surely want to show himself early in the season before heading to Europe.
World champion Peter Sagan returns to Australia after a seven-year absence and will make his debut with new team Bora-hansgrohe at the Tour Down Under. Sagan has been training in Australia since December 27 and will surely be a contender in the sprint stages and perhaps for overall victory.
It will be fascinating to see how Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data) fares on his return to WorldTour racing after two seasons at a lower level in the USA. Morton fell out of love with cycling but is ready to return and could be an overall threat at the Tour Down Under.
Geraint Thomas has been a regular at the Tour Down Under over the last few seasons and makes his seventh consecutive appearance this year. With Sergio Henao also in the strong Team Sky line-up, Thomas will share leadership but could still be a contender before he begins to focus on the Giro d’Italia – his major goal of 2017.
For details of all the riders on the 2017 Tour Down Under start list, click here.
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