Tour Down Under stage to start on grass in 2013

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The fourth stage of the 2013 version of Australia's Tour Down Under will start on grass rather than asphalt in what organisers believe is a first for a major road race.

The 15th edition of the Tour, which will take place in South Australia from January 20-27, is the opening event on the elite UCI World Tour calendar, which also includes the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana.

The fourth stage will begin in Modbury on January 25 when the peloton, which includes all of the UCI Pro-Tour teams, will line up on the grass of the Adelaide suburb's Civic Park.

"Riders will set off from Modbury... which will be a grass start - the first grass start in this event's history and, as far as I'm aware, in any other road racing event too," race director Mike Turtur said in a news release.

The race will also feature a "gruelling" new climb at Corkscrew Hill in the 116km second stage, the shortest open road stage in the Tour's history.

"We've built the Tour Down Under successfully over 15 years and it now brings in more than $42 million of economic activity... but we're always looking at ways to keep the event dynamic and constantly evolving," Turtur added.

Australian Simon Gerrans won the Tour for the second time earlier this year to give his GreenEdge team a dream start to their debut season. He followed that with victory in Italy's Milan-San Remo Classic in March.

2013 Tour Down Under schedule:

January 20 - Prologue - Rymill Park, Adelaide (51km)

January 21 - Rest day

January 22 - Stage 1 - Prospect to Lobethal (135km)

January 23 - Stage 2 - Mt Barker to Rostrevor (116.5km)

January 24 - Stage 3 - Unley to Stirling (139km)

January 25 - Stage 4 - Modbury to Tanunda (126.5km)

January 26 - Stage 5 - McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill (151.5km)

January 27 - Stage 6 - Elder Park, Adelaide (90km)

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien)

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