Having experienced the hottest weather in the world this week, Adelaide is now bracing itself for bushfires which are threatening the go ahead of the Tour Down Under’s Stage 1. Race director Mike Turtur explained at the pre-race press conference that the organisers are listening closely to experts and taking updates on the situation in the Barossa Valley. On Saturday afternoon, an emergency fire warning was announced for the Eden Valley fire in the Barossa which was travelling North.
"If it's a no-go zone for the Barossa, it's a no-go zone, it's as simple as that. It's possible that there will be a cancellation of the stage depending on the advice of the correct people," Turtur said.
"We exist in a volatile environment with a climatic condition but fire has always been a big consideration for us but you just have to deal with the situation on its merits. A decision will be made by 5pm on Monday.
"We will take advice from the South Australian police, country fire service and so on and make a decision."
Whatever decision is made on Monday, there is the possibility that the condition could change overnight with uncertainty over winds fanning the blaze. The Barossa Valley has hosted numerous stages of the Tour Down Under and is just one of several areas in the state currently under threat from bushfires with South Australian and Victoria suffering from a heatwave.
In the history of the race, which started in 1999, there have been no changes to stages in the race and Turtur explained that the either the stage would be cancelled or would not be raced. "When you're dealing with logistics of road racing, it's difficult just to redesign the stage on the run. It’s not an easy situation," he said.
While the race is of primary concern to Turtur as race director, he explained that he his thoughts were with those immediately affected by the fires.
"It's a serious situation. Firstly, our thoughts are with the people who are affected by this fire and the people on the ground fighting this fire. That's our first concern.
“From a race point of view, we're taking regular updates from the authorities in terms of what's happening but it's a serious situation which needs to be monitored and will be monitored up till the day before the race when a decision will be made," he said.
The 135km Stage 1 begins in Nuriootpa and finishes in Angaston with Menglers Hill set to cause a selection on the third and final lap of the course. Turtur explained that the threat to the race is the wind and not necessarily fire. "It's changing constantly, it's the wind that's the problem and it's a big challenge as its changing direction."
In attendance was Simon Gerrans who said that there would be no change in his approach to the race if the stage was to be cancelled. "You just move onto the second stage, everyone is in the same situation and there are still plenty of stages to come," Gerrans said.