Tour Down Under promoters are hoping that the UCI's push to expand the ProTour outside of the European continent could mean that its race will bring the world's highest profile racing to South Australia. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will decide in Germany next week whether to expand its ProTour series to include the Tour Down Under in 2009.
Premier Mike Rann says that ProTour status would put South Australia on the world cycling map. "The Tour Down Under is already the highest ranked cycling road race in the southern hemisphere and we want to take it to even greater heights in the future," Rann said.
The already popular race would gain higher international status with a ProTour bid. "UCI ProTour status would take our much-loved race to a new level of world significance, making it part of the highest-level international circuit in cycling," Rann continued. "We have been working for more than 12 months to position the Tour Down Under for ProTour status if the UCI decides to expand the series beyond Europe for the first time.
Not just backing the race with political gesturing, the state is prepared to provide the financial means to pull off a cycling coup. "The 2006-07 State Budget provided an extra $2 million over four years to expand the number of teams and increase the race's profile internationally."
The gamble is worth a predicted 60% increase in tourism and more than the estimated $11.5m the State generated from this year's event.
South Australia's Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith traveled to London in July to promote the race's bid for ProTour status, says joining the ProTour circuit would cement South Australia’s reputation as the cycling capital of Australia. "Achieving ProTour status will put us among the A-list of international cycling and lead to further growth and achievement in the sport here in South Australia.
"The fact that we are being considered for a race series that counts toward international ranking for cyclists is a huge sign of confidence in the State's ability to host an international standard race."