Separate men's and women's four-day National Road Series (NRS) stage races will replace January's cancelled Tour Down Under men's and women's events, with both new races to be held from January 21-24 in and around Adelaide, Australia, the race organisation announced on Monday.
The stages of both events will be held on the same day on very similar routes, and both will include a reduced 'queen' stage 3 of the stage that normally decides the men's race, with a finish on Willunga Hill on Saturday, January 23.
The opening stages, on Thursday, January 21, will run from Seppeltsfield to Tanunda in South Australia's famous Barossa Valley winegrowing region, an hour north of Adelaide. The next day, stage 2 of both races will take the riders along the familiar roads between Birdwood and Lobethal, before the key stage 3 from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill.
Both races will then conclude with criteriums around Adelaide's Victoria Park on Sunday, January 24.
While the men's race will act as a reduced version of the annual six-stage WorldTour race, the women's race is already normally held over four days, and the 2021 women's race route is arguably even better than usual with the addition of Willunga Hill, with the famous climb normally only tackled by the men's race.
The field will be made up of domestic teams and bigger-name riders who are home in Australia for the Christmas and New Year period, rather than the WorldTour outfits that the men's and women's editions of the Tour Down Under are used to, but the four-day races, as part of the six days that make up the Santos Festival of Cycling – from January 19-24 – will give fans in Australia something concrete to look forward to.
Free tickets – available via the Tour Down Under's website from December 14 – will allow limited numbers of spectators to attend the stage starts and finishes, while fans who miss out will be encouraged to watch the racing from various vantage points along the race route.
The South Australia state's Premier, Steven Marshall, said in a press release on Monday: "South Australia has a strong track record in delivering world-class events, which create jobs and deliver substantial economic benefit to the state. To be able to pivot, innovate, and deliver a high-calibre event, in a new COVID-normal environment, for all Australians to enjoy is particularly exciting."
The executive director of Events South Australia, Hitaf Rasheed, added: "It is important to now look forward and do what we can to celebrate Adelaide and our beautiful regions, support our local businesses and communities, showcase what is great about our state and keep the heart beating in South Australia this summer."
2021 Santos Festival of Cycling NRS (road stage race) route:
- Stage 1, Thursday, January 21: Seppeltsfield – Tanunda (men: 106.8km / women: 80.7km)
- Stage 2, Friday, January 22: Birdwood – Lobethal (men: 116km / women: 97.3km)
- Stage 3, Saturday, January 23: McLaren Vale – Willunga Hill (men: 88.2km / women: 48.8km)
- Stage 4, Sunday, January 23: Victoria Park, Adelaide (criteriums)
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