Australia's Melbourne to Warrnambool may lose its UCI status next year unless it radically changes its format, reports the Warrnambool Standard. In 2006, the UCI wants all international races only to be contested by UCI listed teams, which would rule out 95 percent of the starters in the "Warny". The regulations could also affect the UCI rated Herald Sun Tour and the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under.
This year's Melbourne to Warrnambool featured more than 140 riders in the 299 km mass start road race, and was won by Amore e Vita's Swedish champion Jonas Ljungblad. But if the UCI holds firm, then the race will have to undergo a radical change or lose its 1.2 status. And given the cost and difficulty of flying a large number of international riders out at the end of the season, it seems as though the "Warny" will revert to being a National Event (NE) with no UCI points on offer.
Race director John Craven told the Standard that he would fight the ruling. "The Australian Cycling Federation has approached the UCI on our behalf and hit a brick wall," he said. "Negotiations are continuing. One way or another we must win. We have a 110-year history to protect. It's now an international race. We have worked brutally hard to elevate it to that level. We now don't want to back down."
The Australian riders agree that the race should retain its international flavour. "It would wipe out 95 per cent of the field and I think they would struggle to get the internationals," said Warrnambool's Andy Graham. "They are only here at this time because of the Sun Tour. It won't make for much of a race."
The stricter regulations could also affect the Herald Sun Tour, which features a number of local riders going up against the internationals in the UCI 2.1 rated stage race. One possibility could be to move the Sun Tour to January, where it would feature alongside the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under and benefit from the large presence of European teams in Australia at that time.
Negotiations are continuing.