Australia's Tour Down Under will be the first race on the new UCI WorldTour next year, organisers said on Thursday.
World cycling's governing body UCI has combined the ProTour, Grand Tour and historical calendars into one category known as the UCI WorldTour, officials said.
Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur said the new UCI WorldTour status showed the success of the Australian race, which has grown to become the biggest cycling event in the southern hemisphere.
"Becoming part of the new WorldTour and joining the same ranks as the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Paris-Roubaix is a massive validation of the success and strength of the Tour Down Under," Turtur said.
"Since the Tour Down Under joined the ProTour in 2008 it has grown exponentially."
The UCI WorldTour will officially begin with the Tour Down Under, which takes place in Adelaide and regional South Australia from January 16-23.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and British 15-time Tour de France stage-winning sprinter Mark Cavendish are already confirmed for next January's tour.
© AFP 2010