By Les Clarke
The Tour of Queensland has been cancelled after the late withdrawal of transport partner Malaysia Airlines. Citing increased costs as a result of the spike in world oil prices, the air carrier decided to end its partnership with race organisers, meaning there would be no race in 2005. Race organiser John Craven spoke with Cyclingnews about the development, saying, "Malaysia Airlines said they couldn't support the race anymore, and it's been a mad scramble over the past few weeks to recover from this blow...we've received no support form the Queensland Government despite many requests for funding."
The decision was made without consulting race organisers, but Craven insists Malaysia Airlines is not to blame. "They've supported us over the years, putting money and airfares up as prizes for riders - they've been excellent, and I understand if they feel they can't support us anymore," he said. Craven, who's organised countless cycling events over two decades, says the impact on the organising committee and the 11 municipal councils that support the race is "shattering", and wasn't prepared to say if next year's edition will take place either.
Many of those involved in the race, including riders, affiliates and municipal councils have stood by the race despite this setback. "We've had overwhelming support from everyone involved in the race, and everyone was really looking forward to it. It's a big earner for councils and we'd been planning it for the past 18 months." The race was to be the climax to Australian domestic racing in 2005, with the Tattersall's Cup series, the Herald Sun Tour and Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic having been run before the race took place on October 27.
Craven doesn't see the prospects of more domestic races developing in Australia with so many obstacles, including an administration he believes is not aware of the difficulty of organising races in the country. "The future for racing in this country is frightening, considering all the obstacles," said Craven. "There's traffic regulations, sponsorship and the like...and although safety is paramount, when people go over the top it makes it very difficult. The hierarchy of Australian cycling is oblivious to the obstacles in running a race."
Craven, who has run the race with Councilor Mal Foreman of the Bundaberg Municipal Council, contributing several hundred thousand dollars to it over the past three years, was highly critical of the lack of responsibility Queensland Major Events and the Australian bike industry have taken during the weeks after Malaysia Airlines withdrew funding. "Despite requests from all 11 municipal councils, Queensland Major Events (part of the Queensland state government) has provided no support," he said. "And the Australian bike industry hasn't responded to the need for funding."
Craven spoke warmly about the fact that the media and organisations such as Bundaberg Sugar, Equigold, Jayco and Across the Waves sports club have maintained their support of the race, despite recent challenges - but not enough support, it seems, to stage a major race on the Australian road cycling calendar.