Two-time Tour of Italy winner Gilberto Simoni is the biggest name in the field for the six-day Tour Down Under, which starts in Adelaide this week.
Simoni is looking for a headstart on his rivals this season
He will line up alongside Olympic gold medallists Bradley Wiggins and Stuart O'Grady and fellow Australian Robbie McEwen for the first big race of 2005.
"I've noticed in the past that when McEwen and O'Grady compete here they tend to have good seasons," he said.
"So I thought I would come here to try and begin my season earlier."
O'Grady has won the event twice before, in 1999 and 2001, and with the first stage taking place in his home town, says he is keen to extend that run.
"I'm here to try and win the Tour Down Under. Full stop," he said.
"If I said I wasn't here to win I'd be lying. And I'd probably get shot."
Triple Olympic medallist Wiggins, who received an OBE in the New Year's Honours list, is competing for the Credit Agricole team in his first road race of the season.
He is aiming to compete in this year's Tour de France, and has the extra incentive of his father being Australian, so he will be keen to keep up the momentum from last year.