• The Santos Tour Down Under field promises to be deeper after changes in the race calendar. (Getty)Source: Getty
The Tour Down Under is poised to welcome back a bevy of marquee international riders next month after a documented low count in recent editions.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
12 Dec 2016 - 11:06 AM  UPDATED 12 Dec 2016 - 11:07 AM

World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is among the contingent that will start the January 14-22 race, which will surely profit from both the misfortune and fortune of events around it. 

Sagan has traditionally opened his season at the now defunct Tour de San Luis in South America, leaving the Adelaide tour an attractive alternative. Meanwhile, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race with its newly minted WorldTour status, plus a revamped Herald Sun Tour make the long-haul journey to Australia more worthwhile for teams looking to compete and train in fine conditions.

Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur has hinted at an unprecedented depth of field for his event, with further announcements as to the line-up, which also includes Giro d’Italia runner-up Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), to come.

“The ones that have been named publicly in Sagan and Chaves obviously we’re really looking forward to them coming here,” Turtur said. “I can’t disclose who makes up each team but me looking across all of the names, it’s clearly indicating the talent across the board is very strong and will make for a really interesting race.

“Our race will maybe be the strongest it’s ever been.”

Turtur referred to the merits of the bolstered Australian cycling calendar through January and February, which runs more or less simultaneously with a handful of tours in the Middle East.

“It is a big demand on the teams, especially right off the top at the beginning of the season but everyone benefits from events being in and around the same time,” he said.

Turtur blasts UCI WorldTour management
Former Oceania confederation president Mike Turtur has openly criticised the UCI, labelling its current management of the WorldTour “a joke”.

The former Oceanian confederation president also warned, however, of the pitfalls of such a schedule amid open criticism of the UCI and its 2017 WorldTour reforms.

“There is the other aspect of looking - not from a cycling, but business point of view – at events trying to attract visitation, economic benefit at the same time of year, in the same country is maybe not the greatest thing on earth because you’re after the same market,” he said.

“It creates competition but does put the pressure on as far as trying to achieve the aspects needed to keep the races alive. Our race exists on the fact it’s a tourism event. Visitation and economic benefit are major considerations and if those things drop off then the race is in jeopardy.”

The Tour Down Under in South Australia and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Herald Sun Tour in Victoria all receive significant government support.

“Although there hasn’t been an increase in the UCI calendar as such, events like the Evans race, Tour Down Under have been around for a number of years, I’m not sure if there is any more room at that level because the market isn’t big enough,” he said.

“There are a lot of races in the Middle East, teams are now in a position where they have to make a choice based on the number of events in that period [that] there haven’t been in the past.”