AUSTRALIAN sprint sensation Caleb Ewan will return to the Santos Tour Down Under in 2018.

After dominating the sprint classification in 2017, the ORICA-Scott rider will make his fourth appearance at Australia’s only UCI WorldTour stage race in January.

Previously racing for the UniSA-Australia team on debut in 2014, the six-time stage winner and dual People’s Choice Classic champion is the latest rider to be a confirmed starter in the 20th edition of the Tour.

Ewan is hopeful of defending his sprinter’s jersey crown, but suspects some of the 2018 stages will be less favorable for his style of racing.

“Being an Australian and obviously racing here, I am motivated to do well in my home race,” Ewan said.

“This year, the sprint field is a lot better than it’s been in the past two years so it’s definitely going to be challenging.

“There’s probably only three stages that really suit sprinters in the 2018 Santos Tour Down Under, and then there may be a fourth depending on how it is raced.

“Looking at the profiles, the first two stages and last stage suit me best and then maybe the third stage if it is a more negative race.

“Obviously I would like to repeat what I did this year, but it is going to be hard to win four stages and the People’s Choice Classic!”

Ewan is the third rider to confirm his return to Adelaide in 2018, following Triple UCI World Road Champion Peter Sagan and two-time Santos Tour Down Under overall winner André Greipel who will also hit the South Australian roads in January.

South Australian Minister for Tourism Leon Bignell expects the announcement of Ewan’s return to be particularly popular with local fans.

“The 2018 Santos Tour Down Under is shaping up to be our best yet and the addition of Caleb Ewan to the peloton is another exciting chapter in the lead up to the biggest cycling race outside of Europe,” he said.

“We’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of South Australia’s favourite event next year, both on and off the bike. We want a million people to line the route and make this one of the biggest sporting events in Australia’s history.

“We have booked proven winners to come and put on a supercharged sprinting showdown for cycling fans. Caleb will join UCI World Road Champion Peter Sagan and two time Tour Down Under overall winner Andre Greipel, who are already confirmed to compete, setting the scene for some tough racing.

“I know the fans may cheer a little louder for this Aussie sprint talent as he competes against his international rivals on home soil.”

The announcement of Ewan’s return caps a big month for the Santos Tour Down Under, which was just named South Australia’s best major event or festival at the state’s tourism industry awards on Friday.

The Santos Tour Down Under will be held in Adelaide and surrounding regions from 13-21 January 2018.