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COVID-19’s influence on the cycling calendar has already been significant, and now it has spread its tendrils into another season. CyclingTips understands from multiple sources that the 2021 Tour Down Under will not be taking place, with an official announcement expected shortly. Cadel’s Great Ocean Road Race in neighbouring Victoria will suffer the same fate.
The viability of running the season-opening races have been the subject of some speculation in recent days. Adelaide’s Advertiser newspaper this week reported that the Tour Down Under was on shaky footing, with organisers making contingency plans for the event.
Sources tell CyclingTips that the quarantine requirements were a sticking point for teams making the long international journey from Europe, where a second wave of the virus continues to escalate. Case numbers are comparatively mild in Australia, where a recent spike and 111 day lockdown in Victoria has highlighted the fragility of this equilibrium, with restrictions on international arrivals and mandatory 14 day quarantine periods.
The Tour Down Under, comprising both a men’s and women’s tour originally slated to run from January 14–24, is a major drawcard for South Australia and its capital city, Adelaide. “(It) signifies the start of our South Australian summer and festival season and it delivers millions of dollars to our local economy, drives significant media coverage and gives South Australians a sense of pride and happiness,” Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed told The Advertiser this week.
It’s a significant event for the European cycling calendar too, representing the first WorldTour level race of the year, and the emergence of the sport from its wintry hibernation. It’s a highlight of the year for Australian cyclists too, drawing riders from around the country and beyond to Adelaide.
The WorldTour-classified one day Cadel’s Great Ocean Road Race, first held in 2015, shares a symbiotic relationship with the Tour Down Under due to its proximity on the calendar, with most of the same riders and teams participating.
In the context of a global pandemic, the fates of the two events were tied – one could not proceed without the other.
In the absence of an international field in Australia, neither the Tour Down Under or Cadel’s Race will be able to proceed in their intended formats, although it is as yet uncertain whether alternative races at a national level may be viable.
Regardless, before the 2020 season has even concluded the two opening races of the 2021 WorldTour season have already fallen by the wayside, raising questions of the viability of other races for the year outside of the European continent.