The 2007 Tour Down Under was launched in the Wallis Cinema in Adelaide on Wednesday. Even though the race has yet to secure a top naming sponsor, Khairunnisa Schebella found the staff of race promoter SA Events and the dignitaries in attendance optimistic and enthusiastic about what's in store for 2007.
Without Jacob's Creek's presence at the launch, the launch of the 2007 Tour Down Under was very much a coffee and muffin affair. Although Event Director Mike Turtur claimed there are a number of other major players in discussions, it may well be that the flagship sports event of South Australia will belong not to one company in 2007 but to the over 60 sponsors that make the race happen. "I always thought it would be tough finding the right deal that fits the race and fits the company," Turtur said, adding that the organization could be patient. "We would rather get a good deal in place and a long term commitment!"
When asked whether drug abuse in cycling (and particularly whether the most recent accusations in the sport in Europe) may have scared off potential partners, Turtur said yes. "I would be disappointed if people didn't come to the race because of a few idiots," he said. "Look at O'Grady, McEwen and Evans, these are good quality athletes that do us proud in the Tour de France. Let's support them, the honest athletes, and forget about the cheats." Turtur then reiterated that although riders who have admitted guilt and completed any suspension periods would be allowed to participate, the TDU would not deal with any team or riders under accusation.
Long term King of the Mountain Jersey sponsor, optometrist chain Laubman and Pank, also withdrew their sponsorship and the KOM jersey is yet to be announced. Despite the hiccups and open questions about the long-term financing of the event, the Tour Down Under was officially launched.
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