• The peloton in action at the Santos Tour Down Under. (Getty)Source: Getty
The Santos Festival of Cycling is a multi-discipline collection of events under the one banner that could show the way forward for the scale and types of cycling events that we see in Australia in the future.
SBS Cycling Central

17 Dec 2020 - 9:38 AM 

The announcement that the Tour Down Under was not going to be run with WorldTour competition in 2021 was understandably greeted with disappointment, but from the ashes has risen a new-look event that will incorporate not just road racing, but track, cyclocross, mountain bike and BMX events. The event is in the wheelhouse of the new conglomerate of Australian cycling organisations, AusCycling, with the new peak body coming together to assist with the organisation and coordination of the Santos Festival of Cycling.

SBS Cycling Central spoke to AusCycling's General Manager for Events and Racing, Kipp Kauffmann, about how the newly-expanded event looks to match the stated goals of AusCycling, bringing together the disciplines of cycling in Australia to work together in expanding the promotion of cycling.

"It certainly is," said Kauffmann. "It fits exactly what our purpose is, to bring all the cycling disciplines together. To have them all in one place, the first big event since AusCycling has been developed and we want to keep working with South Australian government into the future to keep building those elements around. They’ve been working on that process for some time."

Porte set for Santos Festival of Cycling
Fan favourite Richie Porte has been confirmed to race in next year's Santos Festival of Cycling from January 19-24.
Festival of Cycling to run in Tour Down Under's place for 2021
A multi-discipline cycling event, the Santos Festival of Cycling, will replace the Tour Down Under for 2021.

The shift from hoping the 2021 Tour Down Under would be run, to working quickly to reset the goalposts to a national-level event that combines a much broader scope of cycling hasn't been an overnight process, but rather than a year-long cycle of planning for the next edition of the Tour Down Under once the current edition finishes, it's been a period of just a couple of months.

"I think what’s most important is that it’s been a straightforward process for SATC (South Australian Tourism Commission) as there’s been one body to work with," said Kauffmann. "Obviously, they’ve had challenges this year, hoping to have the Tour Down Under and then changing quite rapidly in the latest lockdown and then building it up quickly since."

The division of labour is different than a regular year. The Tour Down Under was run by SATC and so will the new National Road Series race that's happening on the road with the same race directors as would be normal for the UCI-registered events, but the other events have been coordinated through AusCycling with local event organisers running the competitions. The South Australian branch of AusCycling had already set up the Adelaide Track League pre-merger, though it has only had a few meetings so far due to coronavirus restrictions. Para-cycling will be run at the same time and location as the final day of road racing on the Victoria Park criterium circuit.

The Port Adelaide Cycling Club will run the cyclo-cross event, The Cove BMX Club will host 'The Summer Showdown' while the mountain-bike event will be run by the Adelaide Mountain Bike Club.

We are already planning an exciting 2021! Starting off with the Summer Showdown on Sunday January 24! More details to follow.

Posted by Cove Bmx on Monday, 7 December 2020

The process of hosting an event hasn't changed with the implementation of AusCycling, more that the top-down process of coordination and getting events on at certain times is different.

"I think what’s great across all the disciplines is that a competition is a competition and they know how to organise that, we just here to make it easier," said Kauffmann. "You’d have to speak to a number of people to bring that together, we brought this together quickly and that’s because we have the structure that allows us to do that.

"The off-road disciplines - we’ll call them that for ease – are the ones that have the capacity to develop and it’s a real growth opportunity for the sport. For the Tour Down Under in the future, it will have all these opportunities to grow because we have a structure that values all parts of the sport equally."

That equal billing is something that is not achieved at the Festival of Cycling, road racing is still the dominant discipline with four days of competition, while the other events have single days of racing staged. What it does offer is a glimpse into the future perhaps, where we can see multi-discipline events packaged together to form an event that makes hosting national level events attractive for cities. 

"I think you’ll start to see more of it," said Kauffmann of this style of multi-discipline event. "I think we’ll see it mostly where it’s right for the disciplines and not just because it brings them together. Again, it’s what best for the customer rather than what can be pushed together.

"Sometimes you can’t get the right venues, or the events don’t fit in a certain spot. The multi-discipline event does drive more people to be part of an event which is its strength and it’s certainly part of the strategy. It may not suit at all times, but I think we’ll see in the coming weeks and months we’ll see more of that approach coming out with hopefully some more exciting announcements like the Santos Festival has been."

If it is the case that we will likely see more of these events in the future, it may be the Santos Festival of Cycling is used as a proof of concept, that multi-discipline cycling events can work and deliver larger returns than stand-alone competitions.