The summit finish climb of Mont Ventoux looks set to be the decisive stage set piece of the Tour de Provence in 2021, emulating the 2020 race that saw Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) claim victory in 2020.
The Colombian star will not be back to defend his title in 2021, but in his place are a host of contenders, starved of racing and hungry for a victory to kick off their seasons with a bang.
The race also features some of the funkiest leader jerseys in the sport, not everyone's cup of tea, but certainly attention grabbing!
You can watch all the action on SBS On Demand as the European racing season gets back into full swing! Stages will start at 12:30 am each night, starting on Friday early morning and running through to Monday early morning.
Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers), Philippe Gilbert, Tim Wellens (both Lotto Soudal), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Fabio Aru (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Alexander Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), Enric Mas (Movistar), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Guilio Ciccone, Bauke Mollema (both Trek-Segafredo) and Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) will fight it out in the battle for stage wins and the general classification.
Perhaps some of the biggest favourites will be the Australians, with Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious) and Ben O'Connor (AG2R-Citroen) are starting for their new teams and will want to make an immediate impact to show they are worthy of leadership roles in the biggest races on the calendar. Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) and Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Victorious) are the other Australians participating in the race with Haussler just coming off the cyclocross season as he prepares for the classics.
Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal), Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels), Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic), Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), Biniam Ghirmay (Team Delko) and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) will be the strongest for the sprint finishes with Demare, in particular, coming off one of the best years of his career in 2020.
Stage 1 - February 11 - 23:30- 02:25 on SBS ON DEMAND
A likely sprint stage, but certainly not one where the sprinters in the peloton can afford to be complacent. The climbing right from the flag drop might mean that a strong breakaway can escape and prove tricky to chase back.
Stage 2 - February 12 - 11:40 - 02:30 on SBS ON DEMAND
Some climbing throughout the stage and the uphill finish could push this stage into being one for the puncheurs rather than the pure sprinters. Arnaud Demare will have his work cut out against the likes of Degenkolb, Trentin, Gilbert and Alaphilippe.
Stage 3 - February 14 - 00:20 - 02:30 on SBS ON DEMAND
The Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux, is on the menu for the climbers to stretch their legs in an early form-tester for 2021. The finish isn't quite at the top of the massive climb, but with only six kilometres cut off with the finish at Chalet Reynard, it will still be a significant test for only the pure climbers.
Stage 4 - February 14 - 23:30 - 02:25 on SBS ON DEMAND
With three categorised climbs, and three days of racing under the belt, this may be a stage for the breakaway, but the majority of the stage is pan-flat and will allow the sprint teams to get a nice rolling pace at the front of the peloton.
You can watch all the action on SBS On Demand as the European racing season gets back into full swing! Stage 1 will begin at 11.30 pm February 11, Stage 2 at 11.40 pm on February 12, Stage 3 at 12.20 on February 13 and Stage 4 at 11.30 on February 14.