By Paul Verkuylen
The Tour Down Under's race director Mike Tutur is bracing for a busy three months following the announcement overnight that the event would not only receive the ProTour status it had been campaigning for, but would receive it a year earlier than expected in 2008. The announcement comes just days after the UCI revealed that the three Grand Tours - Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España - would be dropped from the ProTour schedule and marks a major step towards the sport's international governing body's dream of expanding the prestigious calendar beyond the confines of Europe.
"We are having a meeting next month in Como for discussions with the UCI and the ProTour team's representatives, until then we are not sure how this will affect the race," Turtur revealed to Cyclingnews. "It is too difficult to change the course for 2008, as all the relevant documentation has all been submitted, but we are confident that the course will do the job."
The announcement made it Stuttgart overnight will see the Adelaide, Australia, event become the first ProTour round held outside of Europe. While it's expected the race won't be changed dramatically for its January 22, 2008, start, Turtur believes seeing 18 ProTour teams line up for the event's 10th Anniversary will be a fitting celebration. The change in status from a 2.HC race to a ProTour event will see squads sending higher caliber rosters to Australia's shores than in previous editions and will also see the number of squads rise to 18, up from the current 14 outfits. Despite the increase in personnel that comes with the ProTour status, Tutur is confident that Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is equipped to cater to the event's needs.
"We looked into the logistics of it all very quickly and the two great features of the race, the central hotel for the riders and the lack of travelling while here, will remain for the 2008 race as we are confident that we are capable of handling the extra load," Turtur explained. "We already have a great relationship with the South Australia police and we are confident that they will have no troubles re-adjusting either."
Read all about the new ProTour event here.