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In that warmer sunnier Southern hemisphere part of the world, the 2012 UCI World Tour is ready to kick off with the first event of the season; the Tour Down Under. Adelaide and the surrounding SA area is home to what has become an awesome, or should that be “Bonza” season opener.

While the rest of the world is being beamed images of pros with crazy tan lines, massive crowds and usually a team captain holding a little Joey, the actual racing is as good as you’ll get anywhere. If Sunday’s Australian National champs are anything to go by, the European pro’s are going to have to turn up fighting fit and ready to do some handlebar chewing, with none of this “I’m using it as a training camp” nonsense.

This year, like every other year, the tour is made up of 6 stages with 19 teams of 7 riders fighting it out from the vineyards of the Barossa Valley to the Adelaide hills. In 2012, Australia has their first National World Tour Team in GreenEdge. The team has a great line up and all eyes will be on the new kids, especially Simon Gerrans as he shows off his new National champs jersey.

The starting line-up has a bumper crop of star riders. Along with the European pros, there’s loads of local cycling talent to look out for. Team Garmin has Heinrich Haussler who was mixing things up at the nationals and Mick Rogers will be back again for Team Sky; he took overall victory here in 2002. Matt Lloyd who will be in the pink and blue of Lampre for 2012, is back after a horrible year and already looks in storming form. Lloyd grabbed 2nd place at the nationals, which when you remember that this time last year he was recovering from a broken body, it clearly shows how tough he is! Definitely ready for action this year.

Along with Matt will be his team mate and ace sprint monkey: Italian Alejandro Petacchi.

Rabobank have a storming team line up, with new signing Mark Renshaw. With Renshaw joining forces with the other two Aussies on the team, Michael Matthew and Graham Brown, these guys should be taking a few stage sprint wins.

The stages that could end in sprint finishes could be just as exciting as last year, when Ben Swift started to show the world what he is capable of.

Away from the Australians, the new Radioshack Nissan Trek team, (a merger of the old Leopard and Radioshack teams) bring over hard man Jens Voigt (always good for a sound bite) and New Zealander Hayden Roulston.

Valverde is returning from 2 years in the wilderness and back with his old crew at Movistar. He’ll surely be out to prove a point.

For the climbers, stage 5 should be a good one. Old Willunga hill is a staple of the race and it’s the TDU’s version of Alp du Huez. A lot shorter, but from what I’ve seen in the past just as savage and with just as much action. Plus, the riders have to tackle it twice, on the same stage!

Sunday will see the city of Adelaide inundated with cycling fans for the final stage, a fast and furious city centre criterium. If you’re going to watch the final stage, just remember your camera, sunscreen and stubbie holder!

As Mick Dundee once said, “that’s not a race. That’s a Race!”….or something like that.

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