Tour Down Under: Turtur 'delighted' with start list

Race director Mike Turtur

Race director Mike Turtur (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Much has been made of the Tour Down Under's pulling power following the announcement Tour de France champion Chris Froome would be starting his season at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and confirmation Mark Cavendish is to make his Dimension Data debut at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in the week following the WorldTour event.

Despite its status as one of just 13 WorldTour stage races on the premier calendar of men's racing, the Tour Down Under is in competition with its Australian rivals and Argentina's 2.1 Tour de San Luis which has attracted a start list featuring the likes of Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and world champion Peter Sagan.

"As organisers, we are extremely happy with the start list," said Turtur of the 140 starters at the pre-race press conference which includes a lengthy list of Australian WorldTour riders. "The quality sitting up here [Caleb Ewan, Geraint Thomas, Rohan Dennis, ed], I think if any organiser throughout the world had our start list, they'd be pretty happy. The decision of riders and teams to send riders wherever they go, is their decision.

"All we can do is put on a quality race and make the conditions as best we can. As an organiser, I am delighted with the field we have this year."

In previous years, the Tour Down Under has seen Cadel Evans and Philippe Gilbert appear at the race in the rainbow bands of the world champion while Alberto Contador regards his 2005 stage win as one the most important in his career.

Turtur added that races below WorldTour with point one or hors catergorie ranking enjoy a freedom that he does not in selecting teams and riders.

"We are a WorldTour race, we operate under that umbrella and other events are a little bit free in the market that allows them to do certain deals. Until that changes, I guess that will remain," he said.

While race appearance fees rarely become source for public discussion, the Tour Down Under previously paid appearances to Lance Armstrong when the American rode the race between 2009 and 2011. A subtle reference from Turtur on the race's ability to become bigger and better in the aftermath of the Texan, suggested the Tour Down Under need not rely on marquee names for its survival.

"I think the last five years in particular the crowds have been exceptional and all indicators are, based on the Bupa challenge registrations, and the other events in and around the race are quite clearly that we will match what we've had previously," he explained.

"That being the case, we are more than happy because we've had quite a significant increase a few years back and we've been able to maintain that level and even have a percentage increase over the last couple of years which has been terrific."

Circuit finishes on stages 1, 3, 5 and a city criterium on stage 6, ensure plenty of action for the spectators, which along with the festival atmosphere of the week, ensures the 'complete package' and further reason to remain in Adelaide for the majority of the week added Turtur on the race's appeal.

"The new finish in stage 1, in and around the Barossa which is brand new for the race finishing in Lyndoch with the circuit. Then the old favourites, Stirling doing it five times, which I think is great for the spectators with massive crowds," he said of the stage 1 and 2 finishes.

"The race is a good bike race but it's also a whole week of entertainment with the additional street parties and tour village, concerts, the team presentation, the women's tour this year … So the race has been complemented by a lot of other activities which make it a complete package for people which I think is a big attraction."

While Cavendish is currently racing the Hong Kong Track World Cup track round as he looks to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games, Froome will head to Adelaide in the days after the race to prepare for the Sun Tour. By next Sunday night, Turtur will be hoping any pre-race questions over the quality of the field and non-appearance of Froome, Sagan and others, have been quickly forgotten following six-days of high quality and competitive racing.

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