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Murray tour to cross new borders

Australia's Tour of the Murray River will expand in 2007 to cover three states during an extended eight-day tour. The August 26-September 2 event, which will span dozens of towns in New South Wales, Victoria and for the first time South Australia, has a budget of $400,000 AUD for this year's edition.

"The tour, in terms of days, will be Australia's longest cycling event and is a tribute to its controlled growth," said tour convenor Cr. Eddie Warhurst.

The event's expansion into South Australia, where the final two days will be held, was generated by the District Council of Loxton Waikerie. The area's Mayor, Cr. Dean Maywald, said securing the tour was an "exciting venture" for the municipality.

"This is a big event," Maywald said. "It will bring top-flight international cyclists to our region and provide excellent publicity in Australia and overseas.

"The council sees this as a possible long-term tourism project where we can promote Loxton Waikerie in a previously untapped market."

Loxton will host two town and riverfront stages on Saturday, September 1, before the tour entourage moves to Waikerie for the final riverfront stage the following day.

The Tour of the Murray River was first held as a three-day event in 1996, known then as the Tour of Sunraysia. It was expanded into a four-day tour in 2002, five days in 2005 with a name change, and six days in 2006. Previous winners include Sydney Olympic Games gold medallist Brett Aitken and T-Mobile's Greg Henderson.

Tour director John Craven said the 2007 race would cover 750 kilometres broken across 13 stages and with $40,000 AUD in prize money on offer. "This is a unique concept in Australian sport," Craven said. "It is more than just a bike race - it is a community event bringing major sport to rural communities."

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