Organisers of the Tour Down Under are confident that the momentum created by the appearance of Lance Armstrong at this year's edition can be maintained for the 2010 edition.
Launching next season's ProTour series opener in Adelaide today, race director Mike Turtur unveiled the route for the 2010 edition and was optimistic about the seven-time Tour de France champion would return to Australian shores to compete on the parcours, which visits seven new towns in the first stage alone.
"Lance Armstrong's presence here [in 2009] was sensational - will he come back? He's texting the boss [State Premier Mike Rann] so he must be thinking of us," said Turtur. "Getafe and the office has been in contact with his [Armstrong's] management people on an ongoing basis since they left Adelaide. He said enough things over the last few months to seriously suggest he's thinking about coming back. There's also talk about a new team.
A lot of things have got to happen in the next two months - including, of course, the Tour de France - which will assist people in making decisions in the next two months. I think these two things - the Tour and the new team scenario - will be big factors in him coming back. I'm confident; I reckon he'll come back... I hope."
Turtur and South Australian Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy, Patrick Conlon, both emphasised the impact of this year's edition of the race on the state's economy. A large part of this can be attributed to Armstrong's presence. "The 2009 Tour Down Under was the biggest in the event's history, achieving crowds of over three quarters of a million people and providing an economic boost of $39 million to the State," said Conlon.
"The race is now clearly established on the world stage; kicking off the annual UCI ProTour calendar and attracting the best teams and riders to Adelaide each January. Not only does the Tour Down Under attract thousands of visitors to South Australia, the resulting television coverage beams footage of our spectacular regions into homes across the globe." The economic worth of this television coverage - from the likes of SBS, Fox, Versus and Sky - has been estimated at A$210 million.
"I think we really need to acknowledge what we achieved this year; that was, to attract the biggest name in cycling to Adelaide," said Turtur. "The benefits of his presence this year will be a legacy as we carry on into the future. That's already happening, because I've been to Europe twice since the race and they've only spoken about the tour here. That's never happened before."
The route for next year's edition of the race features some changes in location, although Turtur and his team haven't altered the basic formula for the week's racing. The Down Under Classic kicks off proceedings in Adelaide's East End on Jaunary 17 as a 'separate' event, with a rest day between this race and stage one. The Clare Valley and Gawler stand out as new additions to the list of towns the race visits from January 19-24.
The race will snake its way through Adelaide from the north to south, taking in the Barossa Valley, the southern coastal stretches and McLaren Vale before finishing with a city criterium on Jaunary 24. While there are no outstanding new challenges for riders and fans, Turtur believes the interest created by this year's edition will carry into next year's race.
"Regardless of who races here next year, the people who came here for the first time to see Armstrong this year will be back, and that's exactly what we wanted to happen. We knew the coup in getting Armstrong coming back was going to be massive in its own right but we also knew the flow on benefits of people coming here for the first time would be there too. That's proven to be the case and we expect very strong numbers for next year's race."