By Greg Johnson
Australia's Stuart O'Grady has thrown his support behind the UCI's desire to make the ProTour a more international series, saying he believes his home event, the Tour Down Under, would make a great addition to top level of cycling.
"The governing body the UCI want to make the Pro Tour a more global event and I think they have to start looking out of the circle into Australia, Asia and most probably America in the future," the Team CSC rider told the ABC. "So obviously this would be a massive stepping stone for Australian cycling - it would really be the cherry on the cake for this event."
The comments follow UCI President Pat McQuaid's confirmation to Cyclingnews last month that he's currently in discussions with South Australian Premier Mike Rann about the possibility of the event joining the ProTour.
"I have also had a direct request from Mike Rann, who is the premier of South Australia, where the Tour Down Under takes place," McQuaid said. "He wants that to be a ProTour event."
The Australian event, which commences tonight and runs through to Sunday, is one of a number of events currently being considered as a possible addition to the ProTour. Malaysia's Le Tour de Langkawi and America's Tour of California are two other events believes to be under consideration as apart of the UCI's aim of growing the series beyond its current European base.
"I wouldn't say it is a long way away," said McQuaid on the series expansion into other continents. "The initial idea of the ProTour was to assist in the globalisation of the sport, to bring the sport at the highest level into as many markets as is possible. It was natural at the beginning that it could only be done at a European level, letting things develop there initially. Once that was done, we could then see what interest there is in bringing the ProTour to foreign shores."
O'Grady, an Olympic gold medallist, will compete in this year's Tour Down Under with the Team CSC outfit. Over 100 competitors from 14 teams will take part in this year's five-stage event.