Next year's WorldTour season curtain-raiser will balance sprint stages with ones for the all-rounders...

Organisers of the Santos Tour Down Under have announced details of next January’s race in and around Adelaide, including a stage that starts on grass, believed to be a first for a road race at this level, with the route of the week-long race being overhauled to balance the stages between those likely to end in bunch sprints with others where all-rounders are expected to come to the fore.

Old Willunga Hill, which this year played host to the first summit finish in the history of the race – newly crowned Australian champion Simon Gerrans lost narrowly to Alejandro Valverde, the latter riding his first race since his two-year doping ban – is also back for 2013.

As in January, that will be the penultimate stage ahead of the closing criterium in Adelaide. Things couldn’t have been tighter this year – despite his Valverde’s victory on that ascent, Gerrans took the GC by a whisker.

Next year, the route has been changed to give all-rounders an equal chance of stage wins with the sprinters who have traditionally dominated the race since it was first held in 1999, with changes including a finish on Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills.

“We’ve built the Santos Tour Down Under successfully over 15 years and it now brings in more than $42 million of economic activity, which is quite an achievement, but we’re always looking at ways to keep the event dynamic and constantly evolving,” said race director, Mr Turtur, a gold medalist in the team pursuit at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

“Stage Two from Mount Barker to Rostrevor will be the shortest open road stage in the race’s history at 116 kilometres and also includes a gruelling new Škoda King of the Mountain climb on Corkscrew Hill,” he continued.

“Riders will set off from Modbury in Bupa Stage Four, which will be a grass start – the first grass start in this event’s history and, as far as I’m aware, in any other road racing event too.

“Always a festival, the Santos Tour Down Under will be in full-party mode when we officially celebrate its 15th birthday on Saturday 19 January in Victoria Square with the team presentations followed by various entertainment,” he went on.

“Last year’s event was soaked up by more than 760,000 spectators, which included more than 36,000 interstate and international visitors," said Mr Turtur. “With the race route travelling through South Australia’s spectacular regions, it’s a great opportunity for visitors to explore the state’s diverse attractions and scenery and enjoy the warm January weather.

“I look forward to seeing the exciting new components of next year’s event unfold and to again welcoming some of the world’s best cyclists to South Australia,” Mr Turtur concluded.

Santos, meanwhile, has extended its sponsorship of the event, with chief executive David Knox commenting: “Our announcement in January to extend our naming rights sponsorship until 2016 demonstrates our dedication to an event that provides the state with so much energy and showcases South Australia’s beautiful and vibrant regions to a global audience.

“We look forward to again working with Events South Australia and other sponsors to grow the popularity of the event and increase the economic benefits for the state.”

The race will take place from 20 to 27 January.

Santos Tour Down Under 2013

Sunday 20 January – People’s Choice Classic – Rymill Park, Adelaide (51km)
Monday 21 January – Rest day
Tuesday 22 January – Stage 1 – Prospect to Lobethal (135km)
Wednesday 23 January – Stage 2 – Mt Barker to Rostrevor (116.5km)
Thursday 24 January – Stage 3 – Unley to Stirling (139km)
Friday 25 January – Bupa Stage 4 – Modbury to Tanunda (126.5km)
Saturday 26 January – Jayco Stage 5 – McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill (151.5km)
Sunday 27 January – Stage 6 – Elder Park, Adelaide (90km)

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.