Organisers of the Tour of Toowoomba have confirmed that this year’s edition of the National Road Series (NRS) race will not take place, creating further uncertainty about the health and future of Australia’s highest level of domestic racing.
The Tour of Toowoomba was set to open the 2016 men’s NRS season, from April 28 to May 1, but according to Mac Stirling, the president of Toowoomba Cycling Development — the organisation behind the Tour of Toowoomba — the race won’t be run in 2016 due to financial troubles.
“We’re a little bit of a victim of our own success,” Stirling told CyclingTips. “The race has certainly grown quickly and the cost of running the event in terms of compliance and police and crowd control … has grown.
“You mix that in with the sponsorship being difficult to get, and a couple of key [sponsors] … saying ‘We’re experience difficulty for 2016 – do you mind if we pull back?’ … What do you say to that?”
The plan is for the Southern Queensland race to return in 2017 with the possible addition of a women’s race and a date change.
“In consultation with our key stakeholders — FK Gardiner … obviously Toowoomba Regional Council, Tourism and Events Queensland — we felt the best thing was to put it on ice this year and plan towards [being] bigger and better for next year.”
The Tour of Toowoomba is regarded as one of the most professionally run and competitive races in the NRS. But according to Mac Stirling, the decision to postpone the race — while difficult — was necessary for the longevity of the race.
“We recognise the position the Tour has as being perhaps one of the more successful NRS events on the calendar, and one which the riders and promoters want to be at,” Stirling said. “But we thought ‘If we stuff it up, then it’s going to be even more difficult to get it happening again in 2017.’”
The Tour of Toowoomba’s 2016 cancellation comes after a week of rumours within NRS teams and other series stakeholders about the future of several events on the men’s calendar. There had been suggestions that the Tour de Perth, Battle on the Border and the National Capital Tour would also be cancelled in 2016. CyclingTips understand that, at the time of writing, all three events are proceeding as planned.
There have, however, been other significant changes to the NRS calendar in 2016. The Tour de Perth, which traditionally opened the men’s NRS season in late March, has been moved to June and the Adelaide Tour (normally held in early April) has been cancelled. Amy’s Otway Tour and the Tour of the Goldfields, both women’s-only NRS races, were raced in 2015 but won’t return in 2016.
News of the Tour of Toowoomba’s cancellation also comes roughly eight months after Cycling Australia confirmed that two other races would be removed from the NRS calendar: the Tour of the Murray River (which was cancelled) and the Tour of Gippsland (which wasn’t held in 2015 but returns in 2016). At the time, Cycling Australia CEO Nick Green Called for a comprehensive review into the NRS to ensure, among other things, that the standard of organisation and racing was consistent across the series.
“There are some events that have different levels of standards from one event to another,” Nick Green told CyclingTips in June. “Our view would be to lift the standard of all events that end up on the NRS.”
At the time, Green told CyclingTips that the plan was to present the initial findings from that review to industry stakeholders at the Australian Road Nationals in January 2016. CyclingTips understands that meeting didn’t take place — to the frustration of teams and event promoters within the NRS — and that the review itself has been postponed following a change of staff within Cycling Australia. It is understood that the findings of the review are now planned to be implemented in 2017.
Cycling Australia wouldn’t comment specifically on the cancellation of the Tour of Toowoomba, but did provide the following statement.
“Cycling Australia is in regular contact with all 2016 Subaru National Road Series event promoters and aware of the pressures associated with running such events,” said CEO Nick Green. “On occasions these pressures can lead to the event organisers and owners making business decisions that are out of the control of Cycling Australia.
“Cycling Australia is aware that one event, the Tour of Toowoomba will be making a public statement in the coming days regarding their 2016 event and until this statement is released it would be inappropriate to comment further. Cycling Australia is committed to the ongoing operation and development of a vibrant and sustainable Subaru National Road Series.”
An official statement about the Tour of Toowoomba’s cancellation is expected from the event’s organisers early next week.