The 15th edition of the Tour Down Under is the first of 29 races - 15 stage races and 14 one-day events - on the calendar.
Each stage of the six-day race is held near Adelaide with world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Matt Goss of local favourites Orica-GreenEDGE, Marcel Kittel of WorldTour newcomers Argos-Shimano and Mark Renshaw of Blanco Pro Cycling - the successor of the former Rabobank team - looking to contest stage victories in bunch sprint finishes.
But in at least three of the six stages there is a considerable amount of climbing to do and the likes of 2010 Tour de France champion Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard Trek) will look to challenge defending champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) for the ochre jersey.
Gerrans was the eighth Australian winner of the race and the short but testing climb of Old Willunga Hill is expected to decide who goes on to win this year's race.
Greipel, the winner on GC in 2008 and 2010, won Sunday's criterium warm-up and believes the race will be a good early test.
He said: “The stages look very feisty. I expect that in three of the six stages there will be an opportunity for the sprinters. For the other stages we can rely on a guy like Tim Wellens.
"Apart from Cavendish, Petacchi and Sagan the most important sprinters are present, so it will be a first moment to see where we stand.”
Most wins - Riders
2 Stuart O'Grady (AUS) 1999, 2001
2 André Greipel (GER) 2008, 2010
2 Simon Gerrans (AUS) 2006, 2012
Most wins - Countries
Last 10 podiums
2012 Simon Gerrans (AUS) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Tiago Machado (POR)
2011 Cameron Meyer (AUS) Matthew Goss (AUS) Ben Swift (GBR)
2010 André Greipel (GER) Luis León Sánchez (ESP) Greg Henderson (NZL)
2009 Allan Davis (AUS) Stuart O'Grady (AUS) José Joaquín Rojas (ESP)
2008 André Greipel (GER) Allan Davis (AUS) José Joaquín Rojas (ESP)
2007 Martin Elmiger (SUI) Karl Menzies (AUS) Lars Bak (DEN)
2006 Simon Gerrans (AUS) Luis León Sánchez (ESP) Robbie McEwen (AUS)
2005 Luis León Sánchez (ESP) Allan Davis (AUS) Stuart O'Grady (AUS)
2004 Patrick Jonker (AUS) Robbie McEwen (AUS) Baden Cooke (AUS)
2003 Mikel Astarloza (ESP) Lennie Kristensen (DEN) Stuart O'Grady (AUS)