VeloNews: Tour Down Under drawing big names for 2016 WorldTour kickoff

Rohan Dennis celebrated a win at the 2015 Tour Down under, and will return in January to defend his title. Mark Gunter/AFP/Getty Images

Editor's note: This article originally appeared at VeloNews.com.

The 2016 WorldTour season kickoff is barely a month away, and teams are confirming their top riders for the Santos Tour Down Under.

Sticking to tradition, most of the top Australian riders are marking the 18th edition of the week-long stage race on their respective calendars, scheduled for Jan. 19-24.

Topping the list will be defending champion Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte, the latter making his debut with BMC Racing. Michael Rogers (Tinkoff), Mark Renshaw and Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data), David Tanner (IAM Cycling) and Rory Sutherland (Movistar) are other Aussies expected to line up in Adelaide for the WorldTour calendar debut.

Orica-GreenEdge brings its 'A' team, with three-time winner Simon Gerrans, sprinter Caleb Ewan, stage-hunters Michael Albasini and Daryl Impey, as well as Mat Hayman, Michael Hepburn, and Luke Durbridge.

Other likely starters include Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale), Diego Ulissi and Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida), Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal), and Simon Clarke and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale).

Luis León Sánchez, the overall winner from 2005, will headline Astana, which also brings Lars Boom and Lieuwe Westra.

Ryder Hesjedal, Kiel Reijnen, and Peter Stetina are expected to make their debuts in Trek Factory Racing colors, with Rein Taaramae and Tiago Machado lining up for Katusha.

Last year, Cadel Evans raced to third overall behind Dennis and Porte in what was his final stage race.

18th Santos Tour Down Under (January 19-24)

Stage 1: Prospect to Lyndoch, 130.8km

Stage 2: Linley to Stirling, 132km

Stage 3: Glenelg to Campbelltown, 139km

Stage 4: Norwood to Victor Harbor, 138km

Stage 5: McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, 151.5km

Stage 6: Adelaide, 90km