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

Stage three from Glenelg to Victor Harbor was initially scheduled to cover 146 relatively flat kilometres but has been reduced to 120 kilometres as high temperatures sweep South Australia. However that shouldn’t make any difference to the result, with a bunch sprint expected

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 four on Friday offers up a hilly parcours from Norwood to Uraidla covering 128.2 kilometres, with an uphill finish that should see the first GC shake-up of the race.

Last year’s winner Richie Porte (BMC Racing) 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.