Tour Down Under enters the big league...

Jan 14, 2007
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Cycle: Town Down Under enters cycling's big league
2007-09-28 01:30 (New York)

By Tim Dornin
ADELAIDE, Sept 28 AAP - South Australia's Tour Down Under has
been elevated to the elite ProTour status, opening the way for the
world's best cycling teams and riders to compete next year.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the sport's governing
body, announced the decision in Germany overnight, with the race
beating other events in the United States, Russia and China to the
coup.
The Tour Down Under, to be staged from January 22-27, is the
first race outside Europe to become part of the ProTour.
It will kick off next year's international road calendar with
the winner taking the coveted ProTour leader's jersey.
The decision gives the SA race a place among some of the world's
biggest and most famous cycling tours and one-day classics.
The UCI has also announced a new category of event for 2008,
which will include the most prestigious events such as the tours of
Italy and Spain, the Milano San Remo classic in Italy and the Paris
to Roubaix classic in France.
The Tour de France, the biggest cycling race in the world and
said to be the world's biggest annual sporting event, has been
placed in yet another category along with the world championship
and Olympic Games road races.
The Tour Down Under will now grow from a 14-team event to a
20-team roster with 18 of those coming from the elite group that
boast the biggest budgets and the best riders.
The likes of Australia's Stuart O'Grady should now line-up
possibly alongside other current greats including Tour de France
winner Alberto Contador, le Tour runner-up Cadel Evans, Tour of
Spain winner Denis Menchov and former world champion Tom Boonen.
It will exclude some Australian teams and local riders although
Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur said he was hopeful of
negotiating a compromise on that issue.
Turtur will travel to Italy next month for talks world cycling
chiefs and remains optimistic of finding a way for at least one
national team to line-up next year.
"The UCI are open minded and looking at restructuring certain
regulations into the future," he said.
"I'm sure we'll have an answer next month and I'm confident
we're heading in the right direction."
UCI president Pat McQuaid said ProTour status for the Tour Down
Under was just reward for a race going into its 10th year that gets
better every year.
"I am personally pleased as this is working toward the
globalisation of the sport, because this will be the first time a
ProTour event will be held outside Europe," he said.
Cycling Australia President Mike Victor said the race would now
become one of the landmark events on the world calendar.
"The elevation of the Tour Down Under to ProTour status is
further endorsement of the standing of Australian cycling on the
world stage and a huge honour for South Australia.
"Our cyclists have proven they have what it takes to be among
the best in the world and now they will have an opportunity to race
in South Australia in one of the top-ranked events on the world
calendar."
The ProTour decision comes after the UCI earlier this week
announced Melbourne as the location for the World Road Cycling
Championships in 2010, bringing one of the biggest single-day road
races to Australia for the first time.
It could also provide further impetus for Australia to form its
own ProTour team from 2009 when the number of teams is expected to
grow from 18 to 20.
In August Australian-based tourism company Roamfree.com pledged
$20 million over four years towards the formation of a team to
compete in the Tour de France.
Roamfree.com managing director Tony Smith said ProTour status
for the Tour Down Under could be enough to attract the vital extra
sponsors needed to turn that quest into reality.
"This is like going from a pre-season event to a home and away
fixture," he said.
"It just reinforces how big cycling is and how big Australia is
in cycling."
AAP tjd/gjw
-0- Sep/28/2007 5:30 GMT