For many the Jayco Herald Sun Tour holds a special place of significance, a bedrock of Australian cycling that is arguably unparalleled in terms of history, prestige and cachet within the domestic community.
Part 1: Commercial Imperatives
Part 2: Sporting Implications
Part 3: The region of Oceania
From an international perspective it's also revered. So much so that despite a strong local contingent appearing at the race every year it failed to produce an Australian winner for 15 straight editions between 1987 and 2004.
And though there had been a dip in the race's popularity in the mid-2000s, a resurgence in Australian cycling led by Simon Gerrans revitalised the race's fortunes. By the end of the decade Bradley Wiggins' name was added to the winners list, and last year a popular local champion in domestic star Nathan Haas.
The popular CyclingTips blog praised the action on last year's queen stage on Arthur's Seat as akin to nothing the race has seen before.
But despite the race's growth and promise, it's not been without its issues. After 58 consecutive editions the race did not go ahead in 2010 after the UCI and organiser's USM Events failed to come to an agreement about a new date proposed to avoid a clash with the world championships in Geelong.
This year will mark the second time in three years that the race has not been run as an ongoing conflict between the UCI's Road Commission, the Victorian Tourism, Herald Sun, USM and Cycling Australia continues to fester.
The implications of such political maneuvering from all parties has weakened a race that captivated and inspired tens of thousands of spectators last year, and has done so for generations.
Depending on how you look at it, the recent announcement of a reformed 2013 event which is shorter at four days and not internationally recognised by the UCI but part of a bigger and better 'festival of cycling' in January will both discourage and encourage onlookers.
The race organisation's spokesman David Culbert conceded that faced with the prospect of the race not going ahead again in 2013, the race's stripped-down format was a good compromise to at the very least keep the ball rolling.
We’ll need to wait another four months to judge its success but there exists, at least in the minds of some observers, persisting barriers to the race's future as a going concern.
For the Sun Tour to be faced with such a tenuous existence is heartbreaking, considering its proven track record in attracting some of the best European-based pros and the rise in participation and interest at home.
So why is this all going on? Who gains, who loses? What would be the ideal scenario?
I'll be attempting to unpack some of the issues, in a series of articles about the race and Oceania region stakeholders in the next week. Stay tuned!
This page will act as a landing page and index.