The 2022 Jayco Herald Sun Tour has been cancelled

The Australian Summer of Cycling is getting thinner by the day.

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Less than a day after the announcement of the 2022 Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Great Ocean Road Race cancellations, there’s more bleak news for Australian cycling fans. Australia’s oldest stage race – the Jayco Herald Sun Tour – has been cancelled for a second straight year.

The Herald Sun Tour was first held in 1952, and over the decades since has weathered changes in the calendar, rises and falls in its UCI classification, and shifts in duration. The uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, however, has again proven a bridge too far for the event organisers.

“We are proud of our history as the country’s oldest cycling stage race, however the unpredictability that COVID-19 brings to our event presents too many challenges for us to proceed next year.  In particular, the quarantine restrictions that come with Covid made it very difficult to attract the best international riders.”

“We have not taken this decision lightly, and our team will continue to examine all possibilities in a bid to resume racing in 2023.”

Tom Salom, Jayco Herald Sun Tour Chairman

The 2022 race would have been held in February, with the men’s field tackling five stages and the women’s field tackling two, with racing largely centred in Victoria’s north-east. The men’s race would have featured two mountaintop finishes to the top of Falls Creek and Mount Buller, before a final stage around the Botanic Gardens in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

The Herald Sun Tour has a lower international profile than the WorldTour-classified Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race, but the fates of the three events have been linked. Along with the Australian National Championships, the big block of early-season Australian racing has become affectionately known as the ‘Summer of Cycling’.

Chris Froome was the winner of the 2016 edition of the race.

The Herald Sun Tour has, in recent years, attracted WorldTour teams including EF-Education First, a Chris Froome-led Team Sky, Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo, and the Australian-registered Mitchelton-Scott squad. That has provided a boost for the event, and a world-class racing opportunity for the Australian National Road Series teams that made up the majority of the field. Without the international teams able to commit to travel to Australia – which has effectively closed its international border for the duration of the pandemic – the organisers faced a whittled down field and lower prestige.

Although Tour Down Under organisers have signposted plans for a late-January Festival of Cycling –  a program of events across multiple disciplines and locations which last year included cyclocross, paracycling, track cycling, MTB, BMX and a national-level road race – the cancellation of the Herald Sun Tour raises questions about the viability of remaining events in Australia for early 2022.

Many of the top Australian pros are stuck in Europe and effectively unable to return home due to flight caps, border closures, and lengthy quarantine periods. And it’s not just the international borders that may present difficulties, with multiple state and territory border closures currently in place across Australia. Those that are in Australia, especially in largely COVID-free states like Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland, are currently unable to travel to New South Wales and Victoria, which are battling outbreaks of the Delta variant.

The Australian National Championships are slated to be held from 12-16 January in Ballarat, Victoria – a date that may be cutting it close to announced plans to reunite Australians by Christmas 2020 2021.

Cam Meyer (BikeExchange) took an emotional win to defend his national road race title in 2021.

Australia has weathered the pandemic reasonably well, with low case numbers and deaths compared to most of the rest of the world. A slow vaccine rollout and a series of lengthy lockdowns in the country’s most populous cities has made it challenging for a return to some form of normality, however.

Easing of restrictions is expected with vaccination rates increasing – the country is currently at around 55% fully-vaccinated, but expected to hit the 80% milestone by the end of the year, when international borders are expected to reopen. However, with it feeling like an uncertain prospect even planning interstate travel in early 2022, it’s perhaps understandable that international cycling teams have felt unable to commit to a block of racing on the opposite side of the world.

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