Organisers of the new Australian National Road Series opener the Tour de Perth are taking a global approach to the running of the April event, gaining the support of locally-based mining giant Woodside Petroleum as naming rights sponsor and additional support from retailer, Target.
The Tour de Perth will kick off the NRS on April 11, with a 20km individual time trial taking around Rottnest Island. April 13 will see a tough double-header starting with a 120km road race around the Perth Hills, followed by a one-hour criterium in Kalamunda Town Centre. The Tour concludes on April 14 with a 112km road race in central Perth and Kings Park.
In 2013, the NRS is very much a national competition, with events taking place in all states and territories with the exception of the Northern Territory. While on paper, the expansion of the series is a good thing, there have been rumblings of concern from east coast-based teams that the costs of transporting riders, staff and equipment to the other side of the country makes the trip prohibitive. It's an issue that Tour de Perth organiser Craig Smith-Gander confronted head-on.
"I recognise that it's a long way to come to Perth," he told Cyclingnews. "It's always an issue as an event owner in Western Australia that people have to come across the Nullabor. When it's going the other way, West Australians understand it - we travel all the time.
"We're going out of our way to have a really good prize pool - which is much better than any comparable race in Australia, have accommodation and motor vehicles thrown in which will make it easier on their budgets."
Teams will be provided with transportation from the moment they reach the airport in Perth and as a "worst case scenario" accommodation will be heavily subsidised by CIC Events.
"Hertz has sponsored all of the events we've had for a number of years now and they're a very good sponsor," explained Smith-Gander.
"Every team that comes from overseas or the eastern states will get a team car which will be provided to them free of charge for the course of the event. We will then have a number of buses and coaches which will then ferry the troops around."
Admittedly, the inclusion of the ITT could prove costly for teams with the need for at least two bikes per rider to be transported from their base, but Smith-Gander was unwilling to put restrictions on time trial equipment unlike some other events which include stages against the clock. It's a view very much in line with the bigger picture approach for the NRS in 2013.
"We won't specify TT bikes, but we won't stipulate road bikes either," he explained. "Teams can do what they want, but my view is if we are going to have a professional national series we should encourage the use of the best equipment."
While the Cycling WA-owned event is not new, it's reappearance on the calendar after a two-year absence is due to the input of CIC Events, which had originally proposed a UCI 2.1 event for Western Australia only to fall short of funding late last year.
Cycling WA had already moved to bring the NRS event back for mid-2013 but was facing financial hurdles. Smith-Gander meantime also made an approach to Cycling Australia about the event, and it was suggested that the two parties come together.
"That all made perfect sense," Smith-Gander told Cyclingnews. "We agreed that we'd go at it together. I've taken the financial risk, which makes them [Cycling WA] more comfortable. Cycling WA's coming out of a difficult period; it's financially not strong and trying to re-build itself."
The news that Woodside - Australia's largest independent dedicated oil and gas company and one of the world's leading producers of liquefied natural gas - has come on board for 2013, shows promising signs for the future, said Smith-Gander.
"It lends gravitas to the event and it makes it a lot easier to go and talk to other sponsors," he explained. "Apart from being West Australian, they compete in a global marketplace for their employees. Their very strong view is that they need to provide events and experiences for their international workforce that befits and international company."
It also goes a long way towards the prize pool which will be at least $25,000 and set to grow as more sponsors come on board.
Target's inroads into cycling in Australia also continue, with the announcement last year that they have come on board with the re-badged John West Cycling team which is now known as Target-Trek. The retailer too, has West Australian roots with owner Wesfarmers Perth-based.
"Whilst there has been some discussion about this in the media recently we will certainly be having podium girls and they will be dressed by Target," said Smith-Gander. "It makes a lot of sense to them."
A maximum of 15 teams are likely to compete at the 2013 Tour de Perth with several outfits from Asia being invited. Second-year UCI Continental team OCBC Singapore is the first to confirm its attendance, after recently using Perth for a successful training camp. Smith-Gander is hoping that the Tour de Perth is very much an attractive option for Asian teams.
"WA is on the same time zone," he said. "And it's cheaper for them to fly into Perth than it is to Sydney."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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