Race organisers confirmed that the fixture of the Australian summer cycling calendar wouldn't be run in 2022, with a focus on building a bigger and better event in 2023.
Chair of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour committee, Tom Salom, spoke to SBS Cycling Central about the decision to cancel the 2022 edition of the race.
"We went through extensive planning - cognisant that it didn’t proceed this year - to try and get the event up, but it wasn’t possible," said Salom. "We're putting all our resources, marketing power and personnel around 2023 and hopefully pull off a great event then."
The 2021 event was called off in August last year and the 2022 edition on October 1 this year, with Salom confirming that COVID-19 and the travel restrictions in place in Australia were the main reason behind the call.
“Same issues but slightly different timing," said Salom. "There had been international sporting teams arriving in the country, so the quarantine questions took a little longer to resolve. I think it was the government requirements around quarantine for sports and being able to get top quality athletes in around those requirements. In the end, 14 days for a cyclist is pretty untenable.
"Also, do we want to have mass crowds at events when COVID issues could happen at any time? In short, the same principles applied as to the decisions we made last year."
The Herald Sun Tour has seen an uptick in recent editions, hosting the reigning Tour de France champion, Chris Froome, as he opened his season in Australia in 2017, with a women's race joining the program in 2018. There was a 3-year contract with the race signed after the 2020 race, with now two editions not being run under that proposed deal and instead the emphasis being placed entirely on 2023.
In the uncertain environment at present, it might be cause for concern for the relatively small event, in comparison to the WorldTour races it shares the Australian calendar with, but there is no call for pessimism for the race's future, according to Salom.
“The health of the race is 100 per cent," said Salom. We’ve got sponsors and partners – all disappointed that we couldn’t run the event this year – but they’re all keen for it to be back on in February 2023 and the race is in good shape.”
While the Tour Down Under has again opted to hold the Festival of Cycling in place of the WorldTour race, including a National Road Series level road event, the Herald Sun Tour wanted to maintain its position off bring international stars to the regions. That's also what the race is hoping to get back to in 2023, when the race returns to Victorian roads.
"It’s more an international event in our eyes and that’s what distinguishes it from other sporting events and carnivals in the regional areas of Victoria where we go," said Salom. "We didn’t contemplate doing a festival or carnival.
"I’m most looking forward to seeing regional Victorians getting to see top-quality international athletes, the crowds getting to see international cycling. At that time it will be an absence of three years, and people will have an appetite to see those guys go through the regional areas and the city."
At this stage, the Australian summer of cycling looks to be a diminished one, but improved on 2021, with the nationals road championships, Bay Classic Criteriums, Festival of Cycling, Melbourne to Warrnambool and Tour of Gippsland set to run despite the absence of the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.