Illness forces Thomas out of street race

Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas has opted out of the Tour Down Under street race as he recovers from a pre-Christmas illness.

The 2018 Tour de France winner is one of the headline names as the Adelaide race returns to cycling's World Tour.

The British star, compatriot Chris Froome and Australians Jai Hindley, Michael Matthews, Ben O'Connor and Caleb Ewan lead a quality field for the men's Tour, which starts on Tuesday and continues to next Sunday.

The Santos Tour was effectively put on hold for the last two years, with only domestic riders competing because of COVID-19.

Australia's top annual bike race returned on Saturday with twilight street races in the Adelaide CBD for the women and men.

The standalone races are an annual feature of the Tour, giving overseas riders a competitive hitout before the serious competition starts.

The women's Tour, which will feature a strong domestic contingent including race favourites Amanda Spratt and Grace Brown, will start on Sunday and end on Tuesday.

Thomas said at Saturday's pre-event media conference that his infection had disrupted his training.

"Just before Christmas I had a bit of an infection," the Ineos Grenadiers rider said.

"I thought I was over it but it came back a bit. I've been on antibiotics and I've missed a few days' training.

"It sucks, when it's nice and sunny in Australia and you're sat inside.

"I went for a ride today and felt OK. I won't be starting tonight, but all being well, I will be there on Tuesday."

Thomas said teammates such as Ethan Hayter, Magnus Sheffield and Australian Luke Plapp, who won last Sunday's Australian road championships for the second straight year, would be the best chances for Ineos at the Tour Down Under.

He also jokingly took aim at former teammate and Australian Rohan Dennis, who will be one of the favourites in Tuesday evening's Tour opener.

The men's Tour will start with a prologue time trial - the first time in race history that it has featured a race against the clock.

Dennis, who won the Commonwealth Games time trial gold medal last year, is a two-time world champion in the discipline.

"Rohan Dennis? He's past it mate," Thomas said of the Jumbo-Visma star.

"He shouldn't have changed teams. And you can tell him I said that."