Australia's premiere bike race, the Tour Down Under, was given a vote of confidence by the UCI on Thursday. Cycling's governing body announced that the newly minted ProTour event has been awarded a four-year license for the series. The race is the first ProTour event to be held outside of Europe.
The tenth edition of the Tour Down Under will kick off the ProTour season on 22-27 January, 2008, starting from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.
UCI President Pat McQuaid has been a proponent of globalisation of the sport, and expressed his confidence in the Australian race. "The Tour Down Under fully deserves to be part of the UCI ProTour," McQuaid said. "Australia has definitely become one of the leading nations in international cycling. It is only fair that it should host a top-class competition from now on."
McQuaid also sees the strong growth of cycling in Australia as a good sign for the sport as a whole. "The incorporation of the Tour Down Under in the UCI ProTour is also excellent news for cycling: it shows that the sport is continuing to develop, including outside Europe."
The approval of the Tour Down Under as a UCI ProTour event has been welcomed enthusiastically in Australia. Premier for South Australia, Mike Rann welcomed the fact that the best cycling teams in the world would soon be in the State, and sees the race as an economic boost for the region. "Over time, we hope to achieve a 60 per cent increase in tourists from interstate and overseas, a 40 per cent increase in media publicity and television broadcast," said Rann.
"Today I'm also pleased to announce the 18 cycling teams that will come to South Australia for the UCI ProTour Tour Down Under. Competing cyclists will be confirmed in the coming weeks," Rann continued. "We have made a request to the UCI to look at the UCI ProTour regulations to allow the Australian national cycling team UniSA, a Tour Down Under stalwart, to take part next year.
"Expanding the UCI ProTour outside of Europe for the first time is breaking new ground and we are hopeful of successful talks that will see the much-loved UniSA team continue to take part."
Last year UniSA rider Karl Menzies placed second in the overall classification.
The 18 teams that have been announced to take part in the 2008 Tour Down Under are: Ag2r - La Mondiale (Fra), Astana (Swi), Bouygues Télécom (Fra), Caisse D’Epargne (Spa), Cofidis, le Crédit par Téléphone (Fra), Crédit Agricole (Fra), CSC (Den), Euskaltel-Euskadi (Spa), Francaise des Jeux (Fra), Gerolsteiner (Ger), Lampre (Ita), Liquigas (Ita), Milram (Ita), Silence - Lotto (Bel), Quick Step (Bel), Rabobank (Ned), Saunier Duval (Spa), High Road (former T-Mobile) (Ger) Conditional upon UCI approval of the new team structure.