Fireworks expected at first WorldTour race of the year as sprinters do battle

The opening WorldTour race of the 2019 season is likely to be an explosive affair as some of the best sprinters in the peloton line-up.

Peter Sagan, home star Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani are amongst the stellar start-list at the Tour Down Under.

Australia’s biggest stage race always attracts a strong field, with teams keen to kick off their winning early.

Viviani, the rider who made it to the top step 18 times last season, will be supported by a strong Deceuninck – Quick-Step.

>>> Tour Down Under 2019 start list

His sports director, Rik Van Slycke, said: “Stage victories are the main goals with Elia first of all.

“It would be a good start to the year. He is very motivated as usual, but we need to see who else is there.

“There will be a few opportunities, but also changes in the course, including Willunga Hill on the last day now, which will impact on the dynamic of the race.”

Viviani heads into the 2019 Tour Down Under as a returning stage winner, after his victory on stage three last year.

Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is also back for more early-season success, after winning stage four in 2018 and taking home the points jersey.

But home favourite Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) looks to be a serious threat in the sprint battle, with seven victories at the Tour Down Under in previous years.

>>> Tour Down Under live TV guide 2019

The 24-year-old has already opened his season strong with his new team, taking two wins at the Bay Criterium Series in Australia this week.

Ewan is also looking to take the Australian national champion’s jersey on Sunday (January 6), where he will try to best his compatriots while being closely watched as the fastest sprinter in the race.

Fellow Australian Richie Porte also returns to the TDU, looking to continue his winning streak on the now famous Willunga Hill stage.

Porte lines up with Trek-Segafredo after his switch to the team from BMC this season.