By Greg Johnson
The covers were taken off plans for a new annual criterium to be held in the New South Wales' Sutherland Shire at an unveiling at the state's Parliament House yesterday. Some of the nation's most influential sporting figures were on hand for the Cronulla International Grand Prix's launch, ahead of the inaugural event to be held on Sunday, December 17.
Among those at the launch were Predictor-Lotto team-mates Robbie McEwen and Nick Gates, Discovery Channel's Matt White, Rabobank's Graeme Brown, Australian Olympic cyclists Ben Kersten and Steve Wooldridge, and triathlete Chris McCormack all of whom will contest this year's CIGP.
"We are proud that the event will be held in such a vibrant attractive and picturesque part of Sydney," announced Kevin Greene, MP. "The fact that the competitors will include Olympic and Commonwealth Games competitors will ensure this event is considered a must-do on the cycling calendar," he said.
The event, organised by Phill Bates, AM and John Scott, will include a 40km elite men's criterium to be held on the 1.3km beach-side circuit, as well as an elite women's race, plus veterans and junior divisions.
"I'm very pleased on behalf of NSW Health to announce we will be the principal sponsor and also have naming rights for this event," revealed NSW Health Minister, John Hatzistergos, MLC. "We will use it as an opportunity to market some very important health promotion messages particularly around wellness."
Event organisers have secured a 90-minute television package with the Nine Network which will include live coverage of the Elite Men's race starting at 11am. The television package will also be broadcast in Europe and Asia at a yet-to-be-revealed time.
"I've for a long time been concerned on the one hand about the tremendous profile of cycling and on the other hand about the low profile it tends to get," said influential radio broadcaster and deputy chairman of the Australian Sports Commission, Alan Jones, AO.
"Cycling deserves a better fate than what's dished out to it. I think anything that can be done to elevate the profile of cycling and encourage people to understand, anything that can be done to advance that has to be a good thing."
It's hoped the Grand Prix will help rebuild the area's reputation which was destroyed last year during an afternoon of racially-motivated riots.
"It will be staged, as you know, one year after the riots that did so much damage to the image of that community," added Jones. "The organisers had hoped to get the event up last year but the unfortunate events that took place on December 11th put paid to that."
Among the professional women who have been confirmed for the event are Kate and Natalie Bates, Rochelle Gilmore, and Kate Nichols.