Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur has warned the UCI that any attempt to move the event away from its January home would be a mistake, likening it to "taking the Tour de France out of July".
By
Cycling Central

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

The race has been run in January since its inception, but is causing increasing headaches for the International Cycling Union which is pushing for a tighter WorldTour calendar centred around March through October. That's put the Tour's current January setting in a question, with a mid, to late February position considered more in line with the UCI's future vision for the sport.

But speaking to VeloNews in Adelaide, Turtur said that decision would be a disaster for the event's prosperity.

"At the end of the day, it's a UCI decision as to what they do with the reform in 2017," Turtur told VeloNews. "We would hope that after 17 editions of this race that we'd like to think that we have enough coins in the bank to suggest that we're doing the right thing.

"I think the UCI needs to look at our race in January like the Tour de France is in July.

"It's critically important that we stage this race during the holiday period, because it's a tourism event as well as a bike race. It would be like asking the Tour de France to move from July to another month. They would say absolutely not. The reason this race exists is because of tourism."

Indeed the Tour's current position in the Australian summer is no accident. It comes in the country's main holiday period, and when South Australia, and specifically Adelaide, boasts its best weather. As a tourism prospect it generates a significant economic benefit to South Australia every year and is praised by riders and fans as a well-organised sporting event. So, presumably, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

While moving it away from its current slot might make sense from an administrative point of view, it would be reckless for the event's tourism attraction. According to South Australian Tourism more than 30,000 people make the journey to Adelaide every year for the race, a majority of which from inter-state. That annual pilgrimage by Australian cycling fans could be less manageable later in the year when school holidays finish, and when most Australian workplaces are back in full swing.

"The bike race consideration is good for the sport, but there are business
needs that need to be considered in front of everything else. I think if
the UCI takes all of that into consideration, they will make a wise
decision about our place on the calendar," Turtur said.

That argument may influence the UCI, which is deeply aware of the sport's fragility. In a time when well-run events are few and far between the UCI would need very good reason indeed to turf the work of the South Australia in fostering the event's growth over the last two decades.

Turtur believes a compromise solution could be to bridge the current calendar gap in February with another WorldTour event, perhaps Qatar or Oman, before the European season gets underway in March.

"I think to find another WorldTour event to slot in there between our race, and going back to Europe in March, so there's not a blank month (would be a better move). We've got to find something in February that fits in as a WorldTour race, maybe in the Middle East."

The Santos Tour Down Under was awarded a fresh WorldTour license for the 2015 and 2016 seasons in July, last year. It's been a part of the WorldTour since 2008.