International Cycling Union boss Pat McQuaid believes it’s unlikely the Herald Sun Tour would be granted a February date change for fear of it trying to compete with the Tour Down Under for a ProTour licence. No formal request has been made by the Herald Sun Tour organiser, although there has been an informal exchange with the governing body over the race’s desire to change dates.
McQuaid unknowingly landed in a media storm when he arrived at the Tour Down Under on Thursday evening. Local media in Adelaide had built the issue up as an attempt by Melbourne to steal its ProTour race, with the city perhaps still reeling over its loss of the Formula One Grand Prix to Melbourne in 1996, however the hope would be that tailing on the Tour Down Under’s end would help it attract bigger teams to compete in the race.
“To put the Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour back-to-back, what would happen there I think is they will end up fighting each other; one will try to outdo the other,” said McQuaid. “The Herald Sun Tour will think if we really do a better performance, better event, better organisation then maybe we could take over the roll of the ProTour race. I don’t want two racing fighting for position. It doesn’t make sense that we should end up in a situation where two races are fighting each other because they’d both lose in the end.”
While McQuaid admitted the international federation wouldn’t be keen on moving it, he said there would be a discussion held if a formal application ever appeared. “It would depend on how it was approached to the UCI in terms of what is good for the elite level sport in this country and the development of this sport in this country,” said McQuaid. “It will be within that context that anything will be considered.”
Suggestions that Australia could have two ProTour races were quickly quashed by McQuaid. The calendar is supposed to be a limited once, according to McQuaid.
“I didn’t actually realise coming out here I was stepping into a local controversy, but it wasn’t long here before I found out that I was,” he said. “The situation is that first of all the UCI has absolutely no intentions of having two ProTour races in Australia. The Tour Down Under has just been given a licence until 2013, so it remains ProTour until 2013.
“So the view of the UCI remains that the Tour Down Under remains a ProTour event, we do encourage, are encouraging and I’ve been in discussions with Cycling Australia about getting new events in Australia to assist in the development of cycling,” he added. “But as in the pyramided system of the cycling calendar, any other races would be more aimed at Continental Professional teams and Continental teams – the development of cycling as such. From that point of view in the short term there’s no reason this race should go anywhere outside of where it is.”
McQuaid believes that the Herald Sun Tour’s position as a season-closing race should remain and that it’s up to organisers to make their own race attractive for teams to participate in. He has suggested that the UCI World Road Championships being held in its backyard this year could be the perfect opportunity to promote the race to international riders.
“I did have an informal e-mail from the organiser of the Herald Sun Tour some months ago, thinking that maybe a move into immediately after the Tour Down Under might benefit the race,” he said. “My response was that I don’t think it would do. I think each race has its own characteristics. My suggestion to them was that for instance this year the Herald Sun Tour takes place immediately after what is one of their own events, which is the world championships being organised in Melbourne, and why not capitalise on that. Build the reputation of the Herald Sun Tour by holding on to some high quality teams that will be taking part in the world championships and use that to make the Herald Sun Tour attractive.
“There’s no reason they can’t continue in those dates except if they have the ambition to become a ProTour race or something like that, in which case they have all the ProTour teams, but that’s not on the cards for the moment,” he added.