Excitement always builds before the Tour Down Under, with the Australian stage race occupying a privileged position in the race calendar as the opening WorldTour event.

For many fans, the arrival of the TDU breaks the ‘fast’ of the winter off-season, and provides a chance to see riders in their fresh new kit.

The 2018 race comprises six stages from Tuesday January 16 to Sunday, January 21.

>>> Tour Down Under 2018: Latest news, reports and race info

The opening stage from Port Adelaide to Lyndoch covers 145 relatively flat kilometres and should end in a bunch sprint.

This year’s race features some of the biggest names in sprinting, including world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors).

Stage two on Wednesday offers up a lumpy parcours from Unley to Stirling covering 148.6 kilometres and may cause problems for the pure sprinters.

Last year’s winner Richie Porte (BMC) goes into the race as favourite to secure a second consecutive victory – and become the first rider to claim back-to-back wins in the race’s 20-year history.