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 two from Port Adelaide to Stirling covers 148 rolling kilometres and should end in a sprint from a reduced bunch on teh slight uphill finish.

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 three on Thursday offers up a flat parcours from Glenelg to Victor Harbor covering 120 kilometres, 26 kilometres shorter than originally planned due to high temperatures being forecast.

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.