• Jai Hindley celebrates with the coveted Herald Sun Tour trophy (Con Chronis )Source: Con Chronis
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour will not be run in 2021. The event has been cancelled due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

22 Aug 2020 - 8:17 AM 

The Herald Sun Tour has been running since 1952, with periods off here and there as the event has changed. A women’s event has complemented the men’s in recent years and has proved a hit.

2021 is set to be one of those ‘off years’ with the announcement from the race organisers that the coronavirus situation has made planning for the event untenable. The men’s race is the second oldest stage race that runs to the present day, with the Tour of Tasmania the only multi-day race with more longevity.

Cycling Central caught with the Chair of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Tom Salom about the announcement and the future of the race.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, however the high level of uncertainty created by the current COVID-19 environment in Victoria presents too many challenges to proceed with the 2021 events.”

“In our discussions with Visit Victoria about the summer, it’s looking challenging. Other events may or may not take place too, and our decision was to make the call early and then focus on 2022 and 2023. There’s a lot more that we’re doing with Visit Victoria on increasing the funding and visibility of the race for those years.”

The Visit Victoria partnership is of crucial importance to the continuation of the race, the component of the event promoting regional Victoria is front and centre of the reason that is able to operate on the scale it has in recent years. The contract with the Victorian state government ran out after the 2020 edition, and the good news is that there was a new agreement reached to see the race’s future secured until the end of 2023.

“We’re about to enter a new three-year deal with Visit Victoria,” said Salom. “Obviously the first year won’t be happening but we have an in-principle agreement for the funding of 2022 and 2023.”

The Herald Sun Tour is looking into the possibility of rolling over the 2021 money into the 2022 and 2023 events as well as some economies that will allow for a better event overall.

“That’s correct,” Salom said in response to whether the Herald Sun Tour will look to roll over the funding. “I think what you’ll find as well is that we’ll align our event a lot more closely with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

“That will lead to greater promotion and perhaps some back-of-house cost savings as well. We’re a long way out and have been having those discussions for a couple of months but it makes sense.

“You’ve got two really good events in Victoria. Should they be run completely separately, I think the answer is no. We’re in some challenging economic times, so can we better align the broadcast, recruitment, those sort of things. It’s just getting the complexity and detail, and we have a good run-up going into 2022.”

Herald Sun Tour victory confirms Hindley's leadership mettle
After a steady rise through the ranks, overall victory at this year's Herald Sun Tour proves Jai Hindley is now ready to lead big races for Team Sunweb.
All-out assault on Herald Sun Tour, next stop the world for Berwick
An all-out assault in the final kilometre of the Mt Buller climb saw Sebastian Berwick drop everyone except Herald Sun Tour leader and eventual Stage 4 winner Jai Hindley. While his story was quite a different one only 12 months ago, the sky is surely now the limit for the 20-year-old.

The Cadel Evans Road Race is a race that will face the same organisational issues as the Herald Sun Tour, with overseas riders and COVID restrictions not a good match currently in Australia, even leaving aside the current Victoria spread of the virus. They are also heavily backed by Visit Victoria.

The economics of running bike races can sometimes be a bit strained, but Salom was clear that the cancellation of the 2021 edition was for no reason aside from the pandemic.

“Soley COVID. If COVID wasn’t here, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We’d be moving on, preparing for the summer of cycling in Victoria in late January, early February.”

The Herald Sun Tour is a relatively small race in many senses, a UCI 2.1 classified event, is two steps below the heights of the Tour Down Under. However, in the last few editions it has punched above its weight in attracting top riders, with WorldTour teams on the startline, it’s one of the most successful 2.1 events at drawing big names.

“I think it’s fair to say about five years ago we had a dip,” said Salom of the progression of the race. “We, News Corp and Visit Victoria, then put a lot of work and time into making the event better. We had Froome come and compete, a strong presence from Team Sky.

“Caleb Ewan, Simon Yates, people of that calibre and up to four WorldTour teams on a 2.1 (UCI classification) event, that’s about where we want to be.”

The future of the event isn’t overly bleak then, despite the absence of the race from the regional Victorian roads for a year. A hiatus taken early may be looked back upon as genius or folly with hindsight, but with the current vision of what the world may look like in January, it’s tricky to see how an international event of this scale will be able to be run with much certainty.