Your guide to a unique Aussie summer of racing
If this was a normal season we’d already be partway through the Australian summer of racing. But there’s been no races in 2021 so far, and the WorldTour season (for men and women) won’t start in Australia like it normally does.
Coronavirus has dismantled the Australian summer of racing, forcing the cancellation of most races. But some events are still going ahead, albeit in a different form or at a different time.
If, like us, you’ve found it a little difficult to keep track of what’s still happening, and when, the following guide should help get your bearings. Read on to find out which races are still on and what they look like.
It should go without saying that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and while case numbers in Australia are low compared to other territories around the world, the situation is still fluid. Things could well change in the weeks to come.
In the meantime though, here’s what you should know.
Initially scheduled for: First week of January
The Aussie summer calendar normally kicks off on Jan 1 with the Bay Crits but this year’s carnival was cancelled in mid December. Funding from Visit Victoria was reportedly the issue: it wasn’t clear funding would be coming in or not, so organiser John Trevorrow pulled was forced to pull the pin. The Bay Crits are expected to return in 2022 as a three-day event.
For more on the how and why of the Bay Crits cancellation, follow the link to SBS Cycling Central.
Initially scheduled for: Early January
Now: February 3-7
‘Road Nats’ is one of the only events that will still go ahead in its intended form, albeit a month later than normal. In November AusCycling announced that the meet would be moved back to give riders additional time to prepare after what was a disrupted 2020.
As planned, Road Nats will include elite, U23, U19 and Para events, plus a smattering of amateur events as well. The schedule for the elite races is as follows:
Wednesday February 3: Time trials
Friday February 5: Criteriums
Sunday February 7: Road races
Nationals will again be held in Ballarat and Buninyong with the road races staged on the iconic (if not polarising) Mt. Buninyong circuit.
Expect the field to be noticeably thinner than in years past. The need for international travellers to quarantine for two weeks when arriving in Australia has been perhaps the biggest hurdle for the Aussie summer races and Nationals won’t escape unscathed. Coming home is much harder for Europe-based riders this summer and many will skip the Aussie races as a result.
Note, too, that with a raft of state border restrictions in place around Australia, getting into and out of Victoria might be tricky for some riders. That could impact the depth of the field as well.
It’s not yet clear what sort of crowds, if any, will be allowed at Nationals. AusCycling is currently working through its options and is expected to make an announcement soon.
Tour Down Under
Initially scheduled for: Mid-late January
Now: January 19-24, in a different form
The Tour Down Under is normally the first event on the men’s WorldTour but it won’t be this year. In November organisers announced that the TDU, as we know it, won’t exist in 2021. “The complexities and risks involved with quarantining and international border closures have ultimately proved too much to ask of some of the teams, who have endured a stressful, challenging and compressed 2020 season that will run later than normal,” said Hitaf Rasheed, the executive director of Events South Australia.
So the TDU and WTDU won’t happen, but the ‘Santos Festival of Cycling’ will. Held over six days, the festival will include track cycling, paracycling, cyclocross racing, MTB short track racing, BMX racing, and road racing.
The road racing will be a four-stage National Road Series (NRS) event for men and women, held from January 21-24. You can find more information about each stage at the TDU website but the highlight is stage 3. While the women’s race is just 48.8 km and the men’s is 88.2 km, both end with a single ascent of Willunga Hill. This is the first time the women’s event at TDU has climbed Willunga.
Despite the fact it won’t be a WorldTour race this year, the TDU has still managed to attract the King of Willunga, Richie Porte. He won’t be racing for his new-old Ineos-Grenadiers team; rather he’ll head up the Team Garmin-Australia national team, which also features Jimmy Whelan (EF Education-Nippo) plus what is essentially Australia’s national track endurance squad: Sam Welsford, Kell O’Brien, Leigh Howard, Luke Plapp and Alex Porter.
The Garmin-Australia women’s team also features several trackies – Maeve Plouffe, Nettie Edmondson, Georgia Baker and Ashlee Ankudinoff – complemented by Aussie ITT and former road race champion Sarah Gigante (Tibco-SVB), Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo), and recent Zwift Academy winner Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM).
Team BikeExchange (formerly Mitchelton-Scott) will also be fielding a squad for both the men’s and women’s races. The rest of the startlist is yet to be confirmed but being an NRS event, we can expect Australia’s top domestic teams to be there (border restrictions and quarantine periods pending).
Spectator numbers will be limited at the start and finish area of each stage. The TDU and WTDU are expected to return in their usual form in 2022.
Cadel’s Race and Race Torquay
Initially scheduled for: Late January/early February
Cadel’s Race and Race Torquay were cancelled at the same time, and for the same reason, as TDU. “Unfortunately, due to the ongoing global pandemic, a number of UCI WorldTour teams have made the decision to stay in Europe due to uncertainty around international travel conditions and logistics of quarantine requirements,” said a statement in November.
The races are expected to return in 2022 with “a reunion party” to “celebrate 10 years since Cadel’s famous Tour de France victory.”
Herald Sun Tour
Initially scheduled for: Early February
The Sun Tour – for both men and women – was the first of the Aussie races to be cancelled, way back in August last year.
“The high level of uncertainty created by the current COVID-19 environment in Victoria presents too many challenges to proceed with the 2021 events,” said race chairman Tom Salom. “We appreciate the support of Visit Victoria and Cycling Australia, who understand the rationale behind our decision and have indicated their continued support for both events, and for the return of the events to the cycling calendar in 2022.”
Melbourne to Warrnambool
Initially scheduled for: February 13
Now: February 13
Australia’s oldest and longest one-day road race is going ahead as planned – the only race in the Aussie calendar to be unaffected.
Covering more than 260 km from Avalon Airport to Warrnambool, the men’s event will be part of the National Road Series (there’s a women’s race, but it’s not part of the NRS).
So that’s what the Aussie summer of racing looks like at the moment. Stay posted to CyclingTips for on-the-ground coverage from the Aussie Road Nationals from February 3-7. We’ll also have coverage from the Santos Festival of Cycling and Melbourne to Warrnambool NRS races.