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Mark Cavendish to start 2011 Tour Down Under

The HTC-HighRoad rider will battle Andre Greipel for stage wins at the Australian race in 2011.

British cycling star Mark Cavendish will make his Tour Down Under debut in January, boosting a strong field which already includes Lance Armstrong, organizers said.

The HTC-HighRoad rider, a 15-time Tour de France stage-winner, will be considered a major rival to fellow sprint specialist — and former teammate — Andre Greipel, who romped to his second Australian title this year.

“It’s great that I’ll be starting my season at the Santos Tour Down Under,” said Cavendish.

“I have been to Australia six or seven times and I love going there. After spending time again there recently at World Championships, I’m eager to get back there for some more racing.”

American Tyler Farrar also will start the Australian race.

Armstrong, 39, has named next year’s Tour Down Under around Adelaide as his last international race, ruling out any attempt at an eighth Tour de France victory.