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Adelaide gears up for Tour Down Under

The world’s top road cyclists are arriving in Adelaide to prepare for the Tour Down Under.

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The Tour is the first major event for the sport in 2010, with many cyclists returning to competition after a break.

Competition begins on Tuesday 19th January and runs for a week.

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The field includes arguably Australia’s best rider Cadel Evans, seven-time winner of the Tour de France Lance Armstrong, and last year’s Tour de France winner Alberto Contador of Spain.

SBS sports commentator Mike Tomalaris says the stages suit sprinters instead of specialist climbers like Cadel Evans.

Tomalaris says that while the crowds will be drawn to see Lance Armstrong, the former champ and cancer survivor is unlikely to win the Tour Down Under.

“It’s not a course that’s conducive to his style of racing. But he’s here to give himself a test, he’s here to basically test himself on what is a pretty tough course for this time of the year,” says Tomalaris.

“Let’s not forget that this is the first race of the professional season and a lot of these guys, after Christmas and new year and having time off, they haven’t been on the bike for quite a while apart from training. This is the first race and Lance is here to test himself and he’s here also with his new Radio Shack team.

However, last year’s winner, Australian Allan Davis, says he’s not so sure that the six-stage race won’t suit Armstrong.

Davis says he’s expecting another strong performance from the 38-year-old cancer survivor, who came back from retirement at last year’s Tour Down Under.

“Full respect for Lance. I’m a big supporter and believer of what he is doing, not only for cycling but for his cancer research and fund raisers, I’m a very big supporter of that. But on the bike I have a pretty good opponent for him, Alberto Contador, I mean he has won the last two Tour de Frances he’s competed in,” Davis said.

Davis says after taking time off during the European winter, many riders won’t be as fit for the Tour Down Under as they will be for other competitions later this year.

Tomalaris is calling on Australians to show as much support for the Tour Down Under as French people show for the Tour de France.

“It is a cycling centre of the universe for a week here and if you don’t follow cycling, you don’t really have to. You can still come over here and enjoy the atmosphere and the racing,” he says.

“This is a replica of the Tour de France and for those who haven’t been to the world’s greatest bike race in July and probably can’t afford to go there, well they can come to Adelaide and experience something very, very similar without having to leave Australia.

The Tour Down Under starts on January 17th.