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2021 Tour Down Under cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

WILLUNGA HILL AUSTRALIA JANUARY 26 Ben Gastauer of Luxembourg and Team AG2R La Mondiale Richie Porte of Australia and Team TrekSegafredo Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Team TrekSegafredo Daryl Impey of South Africa and Team MitcheltonSCOTT Orange Leader Jersey Aldinga beach Landscape Dunes Peloton Ocean during the 22nd Santos Tour Down Under 2020 Stage 6 a 1515km stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill 374m TDU tourdownunder UCIWT on January 26 2020 in Willunga Hill Australia Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
The peloton at the 2020 Tour Down Under (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The 2021 Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race men’s and women’s events have been cancelled after the COVID-19 global pandemic made it difficult for teams to travel to Australia for the January races.

The women's race was scheduled to begin on January 14, followed by the 23rd edition of the men's WorldTour race on January 19. The women’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was scheduled for January 30, with the men’s race the day after. Most riders compete in both races during a single trip to Australia. The Jayco Herald Sun Tour stage races, due to be held in early February, were already cancelled in August.

Australia has managed to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks thanks to a series of restrictions and was hoping public life would open up during the southern hemisphere summer.

However, a need to quarantine for travellers arriving in the country prompted many of the leading teams to decide against travelling to Australia. 

"The Santos Tour Down Under is a much-loved event on the world cycling and Australian sporting calendars and we know how important this event is to the people of South Australia," said Hitaf Rasheed, executive director of Events South Australia.

"It is for that reason we have done all we can to consider how we can deliver it, but unfortunately in the end it was the international component, with over 400 people that make up the international teams, that proved to be the most difficult to overcome.

"We have worked with our stakeholders, SA Health and SA Police to create a successful strategy to bring the international event to South Australia.  However, the complexities and risks involved with quarantining and international border closures have ultimately proved too much to ask of some of the teams, who have endured a stressful, challenging and compressed 2020 season that will run later than normal."

The Tour Down Under, which was set to run from January 14 to January 24, will now be replaced by a domestic cycling festival, the details of which are yet to be announced.

"We are excited about the opportunity to deliver a domestic cycling festival. An incredible amount of work has already been undertaken with key stakeholders and we will now go about finalising what that will look like and will look forward to sharing that with everyone later this month," said Rasheed.

Cyclingnews understands that the AIGCP team association surveyed the teams on if they would be willing to travel to Australia and accept a 14-day quarantine but most teams said they did not want to travel. Teams would also likely have to quarantine upon returning to their homes in Europe, creating another obstacle to teams participating.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, teams are likely to focus on a European race programme, especially in the first part of the season.

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race organisers stated that their races have also been cancelled due to WorldTour teams opting to stay in Europe because of the pandemic. Planning for the 2022 edition has already started, they added.

"We know riders and spectators will share our disappointment that our races will not feature on the international cycling calendar this summer, but we look forward to bringing back this iconic event in 2022," said Brendan McClements, CEO of Visit Victoria.

"We're devastated we won't be opening the UCI WorldTour one day racing season in January. But this decision has been made by putting the health and safety of our riders, event partners, spectators, workforce, volunteers and broader community first," added Cadel Evans.