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Organisers of the Santos Tour Down Under have declared that the race’s 2021 edition will go ahead, despite ongoing uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic.
Events South Australia is adamant Australia’s biggest bike race will be held in January, even if it means scaling back the race to a national-level event.
“We are committed to delivering the Santos Tour Down Under for South Australia and creating an event that is safe for all,” Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed told the Adelaide Advertiser. “At the same time, and like many organisations and events, we are working on a number of different scenarios to ensure it is a COVID-safe event for our spectators, teams and all key stakeholders.
“Many of these scenarios are dependent upon external parties and actions, such as border closures, quarantine restrictions, flights and access into South Australia.”
Flights into Australia are currently restricted to all but Australian citizens, permanent residents, and those in a handful of other, smaller exemption categories. As things currently stand, foreign riders wouldn’t be able to enter the country.
As reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, the race won’t be able to hold onto its WorldTour status in 2021 if international travel hasn’t opened up or an exemption isn’t created for arriving athletes. The mandatory 14-day quarantine period that’s currently in place for all arrivals might cause problems too — teams are unlikely to send riders to Australia if they have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon landing.
The Adelaide Advertiser reports that if international riders aren’t able to race the TDU, the event might still go ahead as a National Road Series (NRS) event, featuring Australia’s best domestic teams.
“We’d be supportive of anything that helps promote cycling and the recovery from COVID,” Cycling Australia CEO Steve Drake told The Advertiser. “I don’t think anybody is at a point where they can comment on specifically what might happen because, as Hitaf has said, they are looking at everything, but they do seem committed to having a bike race in South Australia so from CA’s perspective that’s great.”
Like so many, Drake is hopeful that racing will return to something approaching normality in 2021, but admits that’s far from certain.
“One of the things we’ve all learnt in the last six months is that things can change quickly, but our current thinking for 2021 would be we are back to a more normal season. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t incorporate something that isn’t more tailored around TDU if that was the best thing for the sport.”
While Events SA is determined to hold the race in January next year, it’s too early to say with any certainty whether that will even be possible. At the time of writing, South Australia hasn’t had a new coronavirus case for a week, but as seen in Victoria and New Zealand, a second wave can’t be ruled out. Events SA is certainly mindful of the bigger picture.
“We are also keen to make sure that whatever we deliver aligns with community sentiment,” Rasheed told The Advertiser. “Ultimately our response to COVID-19 is a work in progress and we continue to work very closely and take advice from SA Health and [South Australia Police].”
The 2021 Santos Tour Down Under, which incorporates a men’s and women’s race, is scheduled to run from January 14-24.