• Tour de France champion Chris Froome is one high profile rider who gave the Santos Tour Down Under a miss in return for a low key build-up to his season (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur says top overseas riders will come to next year's edition.
Cycling Central

25 Jan 2016 - 9:20 PM 

Mike Turtur predicts the big overseas cycling names who were notable by their absence will race at next year's Tour Down Under.

The race director said there will be some nice surprises later this year when announcements are made for the 2017 edition.

While the first WorldTour race of the season always attracts a strong Australian contingent, last week's 18th edition lacked top international riders.

Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome opted to bypass the race and start his season instead at next month's Herald Sun Tour in Victoria.

World cycling boss Brian Cookson said it was a puzzling decision by Froome's Sky team.

World champion Peter Sagan also started his season in Argentina, not Adelaide.

Turtur said they would not revisit the 2009 decision to contract Lance Armstrong.

While that proved controversial because of Armstrong's doping downfall, it was a smart business move given his impact on the event.

"There have been reasons why some of the big names haven't been here," Turtur said on Monday.

"Next year, there will be some nice surprises.

"We won't be contracting any individual rider.

"The discussions I've had, just in the last 24 hours, have suggested clearly to me that this race is going to be hotly contested next year by a number of people who were here this year, but also several others who are going to come."

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Outside of home-grown talent, this year's Tour Down Under's start list is bereft of a headline-grabbing foreign rider. Anthony Tan wonders if the race has become a victim of its own success.

Australian riders dominated this year's Tour, with Simon Gerrans winning for a record fourth time.

All the stage winners were Australian and top local team Orica-GreenEDGE won three of the five race categories.

The Australian domination highlighted the challenges facing overseas riders to be competitive in Adelaide.

It is not an easy thing to race so far from Europe so early in the season," said IAM team manager Rik Verbrugghe.

"A good performance for this type of race is played out in the small details which have a great importance.

Turtur said the riders and teams were happy with the Tour balance between stages that suit the sprinters and those for the more all-round cyclists.

He again defended the high-speed finish to stage three, featuring a 100km/h descent from Corkscrew, and noted for the first time in several years that there were no hospital admissions because of crashes.

Turtur also praised Gerrans' command performance.

"I said to him 'Eddie Merckx has won the Tour (de France) five times ... to have you as a multi winner here is terrific'.

"We're really proud that it's an Australian and a guy who represents the sport really well.

The Tour is Turtur's creation and he has been the only race director in its 18-year history.

He will turn 58 this year and said a succession plan was in place for himself and other key race officials.

But Turtur is adamant he will stay in charge next year.

He added the race will soon start looking at potential country towns for next year's course and said there is one stipulation.

"The bakery has to be good."