After a two-year Covid inflicted absence, the Tour Down Under makes its return to the men's WorldTour calendar this season. The women's Tour Down Under is also back on and for the first time ever will be included in the women's WorldTour.
Some of the biggest names in the sport will be beginning their 2023 campaigns in the coming days in Australia.
The week of racing in Adelaide will begin with a short criterium on Saturday 14 January. While it may not count towards the general classification in either race, it's bound to be a thrilling affair. The women's race then begins on Sunday and the men's will kick off on Tuesday 17 January with a short 5.5 kilometre prologue.
Here are seven riders we think could look to start their seasons as they mean to go on next week.
The newly crowned Australian national road champion will certainly be one to watch. As one of Australia’s biggest up and coming names, Plapp may well materialise as being Ineos’ elected leader for the Tour down Under, particularly if Ethan Hayter and Geraint Thomas are still some way off form.
Plapp is a respectable climber, and strong on the other types of terrain. He will be able to rely upon the experience of the likes of Ben Swift, as well as the youthful effervescence provided by the likes of Hayter and Magnus Sheffield if he gets the nod to go for the win from the Ineos management.
O’Connor is another homegrown hope for the Australian fans, and has slightly more experience and GC know-how compared to his fellow Aussie Plapp.
On his day, the AG2R man is undoubtedly one of the best climbers on the men’s WorldTour and has stage wins at both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia to his name. O’Connor comes into the race as his French team's leader and possesses all the talents to make a difference on the hillier stages this year.
Keep an eye out for the 27-year-old in the sharp end of the action on stage five to Mount Lofty where he will almost certainly be in contention for a win.
Home favourite Grace Brown will be looking to start the 2023 season as she means to go on when racing gets underway on Sunday.
Brown recently finished second to Brodie Chapman in the women’s road race at the Australian national championships, putting her in good stead for when the Tour down Under gets going. The 30-year-old had a highly respectable 2022 which saw her secure second overall at the Women’s Tour as well as a stage win at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.
In 2022, she was millimetres away from a major stage race victory. Where better to go one step further than on the roads of the women’s Tour down Under?
A new signing for UAE Team Emirates ahead of the 2023 season, Jay Vine arrives at his home race as a solid favourite for the victory.
Last season Vine exploded into the limelight in dramatic style, grabbing two stage wins at the Vuelta a España. Both coming on mountain top finishes, Vine made a name for himself as one of the best climbers at the race alongside the likes of then of Ineos Grenadiers, Richard Carapaz.
Possessing a fast turn of speed when the road goes uphill, Vine will be a huge favourite to go on the attack on the hilly stages three and five as he looks to go all in for the victory.
The former Tour of Flanders winner, Alberto Bettiol, arrives in Australia as one of the bigger names in his EF Education-EasyPost team.
Bettiol will be able to call on more than capable allies in the shape of new EF signing Mikkel Honore, and German Jonas Rutsch as he looks to ride well and place highly on the general classification. The Italian is a powerful and explosive puncheur who will favour the short, sharp climbs on offer in Australia.
Given the Tour down Under’s place in the calendar, many of the more prestigious names may be taking a back seat as they look to build form for later in the year. If that turns out to be the case, Bettiol may well use his explosiveness to capitalise and secure the victory.
Kiwi Bennett is one of two riders on UAE Team Emirates that could threaten the top half of the GC in Australia.
After a lengthy spell with Dutch powerhouse Team Jumbo-Visma earlier in his career, the 32-year-old Bennett possesses all the attributes and experience needed to launch a bid at victory in any week-long stage race scenario.
The Kiwi is aggressive and can climb well and also has the advantage of already passing the off-season in the southern hemisphere, removing the need to acclimatise to the action. Not only that, Bennett can also benefit from freedom from racing with home nation expectations this month.
The women’s 2022 Commonwealth Games road race champion, Georgia Baker will be out to impress as another home favourite for Australia. Particularly in the colours of home-based team Jayco-AIUla.
A formidable rider on both the road and track, Baker is a powerful athlete capable of stamping her authority on any race from day one. While she may not possess the same climbing ability as her fellow Australian Brown, the shorter, punchier climbs on offer at the Tour down Under shouldn’t provide Baker with too many problems.
If out and out favourite Brown slips up, Baker will certainly be a rider capable of capitalising.
HOW TO WATCH THE TOUR DOWN UNDER
We've put together a full guide to all the stages to both the men's and women's Tour Down Under.
If you're planning on tuning in to the action then take a look at our how to watch the race guide to ensure you don't miss a single pedal stroke.
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