Tour Down Under 2014 preview: top five contenders

New UCI WorldTour season kicks off in Adelaide this weekend

In the searing heat of Australia, cricket and tennis have dominated the headlines this month, but Tuesday will see cycling return to centre stage as the 2014 UCI WorldTour season kicks off with the Tour Down Under.

Returning for its 16th edition, the race has been the first event on cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour calendar since 2009, and is among the most-attended races in the world.

Tom-Jelte Slagter celebrates his victory in last year’s Tour Down Under (pic: Sirotti)

Its impact has been such that former Giro d’Italia boss Michele Acquarone believes it could become a Grand Tour.

However, for now, world cycling’s elite face six days of racing in and around Adelaide from January 21 to January 26, with Tom-Jelte Slagter’s ochre jersey up for grabs.

The Dutchman, who has since moved from Belkin Pro Cycling to Garmin-Sharp, will not return to defend his 2013 title but there is no shortage of big-name riders bidding to kick off their season in style – with several home riders among the pre-race favourites.

Check out our five top contenders over the following pages.

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