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Sagan, Chaves, Thomas headline Tour Down Under start list

The opening race of the 2017 season is scheduled for January 17-22 in Australia.

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Two-time world champion Peter Sagan and Colombian sensation Esteban Chaves headline the start list for the Santos Tour Down Under next month.

The men’s 2017 WorldTour clicks into gear in less than three weeks, with Sagan making his high-profile debut in Bora – Hansgrohe colors in Australia. Sagan will also be the featured rider during the Legends Night dinner gala, an event typically reserved for a retired star.

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Other confirmed starters for the 19th Tour Down Under (January 17-22) include Chaves’s Orica – Scott teammates Caleb Ewan and four-time winner Simon Gerrans, Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), Thomas De Gendt and Adam Hansen (Lotto – Soudal), Robert Gesink (LottoNL – Jumbo) and Geraint Thomas (Sky).

“I’ve been coming out for a few years now and it’s just a really good place to start the year,” said Sky’s Thomas. “It’s a good, hard race and the weather is always great, so I’m always able to get a good block of training in while I’m there. It’s somewhere I really enjoy racing and it’s a structure that’s really worked for me in the past.”

Other top starters will be confirmed in the coming days ahead of the debut of the newly expanded WorldTour calendar. There are five additional races classified as WorldTour status slotted in between the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice, the traditional WorldTour opener in Europe. Now, WorldTour teams will also line up at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (January 29), Tour of Qatar (February 6-10), Abu Dhabi Tour (February 23-26), Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (February 25), and Strade Bianche (March 4).

Two new teams will also make their WorldTour debut in Australia, with UAE – Abu Dhabi and Bahrain – Merida, assuring an ever-expanding Middle East presence on the international stage. The four-day Santos Women’s Tour runs from January 14-17.