The Santos Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race will again be taken off the early season international calendar in 2022 as the continuing COVID-19 related border closure and quarantine requirements in Australia provide too large a hurdle to overcome.
The organisers of the one-day Victorian WorldTour and Women's WorldTour event said they would instead explore opportunities to hold an international cycling event later in 2022. The Tour Down Under, however, is again replacing its event around Adelaide and regional South Australia with a domestic cycling festival and said the men’s UCI WorldTour and women’s UCI ProTour events would only return in 2023.
“The Santos Tour Down Under is a much-loved event on the world cycling and Australian sporting calendar and an important economic driver for South Australia, attracting 44,000 people, injecting 742 jobs and more than $66 million into the economy when last held in 2020,” Events South Australia executive director, Hitaf Rasheed, said in a statement.
“We have fully explored all avenues, but unfortunately in the end it was the border closures and quarantine requirements for more than 400 people that make up the international teams that proved to still be too difficult to overcome.”
When the six-stage men's WorldTour ranked Tour Down Under and four stage women's 2.Pro ranked tour last ran in 2020, the January dates meant they missed the disruption that occurred through the rest of the season as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.
However, the international races were cancelled in 2021 as Australia had closed its border and introduced strict quarantine requirements to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the time the race organisers worked with the government to try and deliver the race regardless, but the circumstances ultimately proved too big an ask for some teams, leading to the race cancellation.
Those border restrictions and quarantine requirements still currently remain in place. The teams usually travel to the Tour Down Under in early January and then on to Victoria for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race . That included a one-day Women's WorldTour event on the Saturday and men's WorldTour race the next day as well as a 1.1 ranked women's and men's supporting events, known as Race Torquay in 2020.
It was no surprise then that the cancellation of the Tour Down Under was soon followed by the news that the Victorian even was off the calendar, for now, too.
"We know this is disappointing for race organisers, our partners, communities along the Surf Coast and cycling fans from all over who love the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race," Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements said in a statement.
Race organisers said they had been working closely with the Australian and international cycling community to exhaust all possibilities and one of those possibilities, it seems, may be a postponement instead.
"Visit Victoria is currently exploring opportunities to hold an international cycling event later in 2022," McClements said.
The first international road cycling event scheduled to run in Australia since the World Health Organization labelled the COVID-19 situation a pandemic is now the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, which is set for 18-25 September 2022.
It seems likely, given the distance most teams have to travel to race in Australia, that any Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race international replacement event would work in with the timing of the World Championships.
The South Australian event, on the other hand, is following the pattern set this year, replacing the Tour Down Under with a festival of cycling, which last year included a four-stage men's and women's National Road Series (NRS) level race.
That saw domestic riders lining up among returning Australian WorldTour and Women's WorldTour professionals. Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) won the men's event while Sarah Gigante, racing for Team Garmin Australia, took out the overall in the women's tour. The event also proved a valuable launching pad for Luke Plapp, now signed to Ineos Grenadiers, who won a stage while riding for the national squad (Team Garmin Australia) alongside Richie Porte.
“Adelaide in January is all about cycling and our cycling friends from all around Australia gathering here," said the Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall.
"Although international major events continue to be challenging, we will celebrate cycling in January 2022 in the best way we know how and welcome visitors to Adelaide once again to kick off the new year.”
The Santos Festival of Cycling will run from January 21 to 29 with racing across the disciplines of road, track, BMX, mountain biking, paracycling and cyclo-cross.
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