• The Tour of Sarawak ended before it began (Supplied)Source: Supplied
In a farcical turn of events, there has been a ‘no-show’ by organisers at the Tour of Sarawak this week, with teams from around the world greeted by silence and designated hotels not having any rooms for arriving riders.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
15 Mar 2016 - 8:36 PM 

At a hastily convened meeting on the eve of the race, teams and riders were then informed that the race would not be run.

Teams from around the globe, including squads from Asia, Africa and three teams from Australia had flown in to be part of the event, only to find the dire situation on the ground once they arrived.

Initially, organisers could not be reached, apparently taking the phone off the hook at their contact number, with all other attempts at contact going unanswered.

Finally a last minute meeting was scheduled between the organisers and the teams, with the news coming out from it that the race was cancelled less than 24-hours before it was due to start.

No official statement has been released, but it is understood that managers were told by race organisers that financial pressures were to blame.

Sam Layzell, director of Oliver’s Real Food Racing, one of the Australian teams set to compete, was understandably irate at the news.

"I am extremely disappointed with the lack of communication regarding the race’s financial instability until the eve of the race, we have funded a team of 6 riders and two staff, all for nothing,” he said.

“Somebody needs to take responsibility for this mess. This is a UCI sanctioned event. And we now face the hotel bill from the past few days plus fees for changes to flights.

“We are 800kms from our departure airport without many options. For a small team like us, it is devastating financially."

Garry Elliot, Sports Director of the Kenyan Riders Downunder, was taken aback, not merely by the apparent cancellation, but the cowardly way that organisers had gone about it.

“None of the teams were forewarned about the circumstances, and even the possibility of the race not being run,” he said.

“To turn up and find that there is no organisation, no commissaries, no police, nothing. It’s just terrible for everyone involved.

“Financially, it’s a $10,000 US drain on the budget, which is a massive loss from a small team like ours.

“We’ve asked for the UCI to look into this as well, but I’m sure they’re being bombarded at the moment by all the teams involved.”'

The UCI accredited 2.2 race was due to hold its inaugural event with the backing of government departments and a seemingly solid set of sponsors, so this capitulation has justifiably left a lot of teams and riders angry with the way things have developed.

Reports began emerging yesterday of UCI officials being stranded in Kuala Lumpur after organisers didn’t pay up on the flights after sending through copies of the booking to the officials. But organisers were still maintaining the line that the race would be run then.

Even up until the meeting updates were made to the effect that they were ‘hoping’ the race would proceed despite the absence of any infrastructure on the ground.

All attempts have been made to get in touch with the organisers for an official statement on the situation, but there hasn’t been a response as yet.

Teams have reported that the people that they have dealt with won't even given their names, presumably so that they aren’t held accountable.

It comes as bad news for Asian racing, only a few weeks after the cancellation of Stage 1 of the Tour de Filipinas, which saw riders placed in the dangerous position of weaving in and out of heavy traffic and road barriers before the stage was eventually cancelled.

With the Australian domestic racing scene losing a number of events recently, more local teams had been looking to the Asian races as a chance to get their riders some much needed racing kilometres and experience.

Teams may be more cautious after this episode however, more-so with the small budgets of the squads already being stretched to the limit.