Fire threatens Tour Down Under start

Simon Gerrans wins Australian national championships 2014

The first stage of the Tour Down Under could be cancelled as race officials continue to closely monitor bushfires raging across South Australia.

Tuesday's 2014 WorldTour season opener is set to take place in the affected Barossa Valley but race director Mike Turtur has reassured safety won't be compromised.

The decision whether to run the selective 135km stage from Nuriootpa to Angaston will be made in a technical meeting on Monday, 5pm local time.

"Firstly, our thoughts are with the people who are being affected by this fire and also the people on the ground fighting it," Turtur told journalists at an Adelaide press conference today.

"Obviously, from a race point of view, we're taking regular updates from the authorities in terms of what's happening there. It's a serious situation that needs to be monitored and it will be monitored up until the day before the race where we'll make a decision from the advice from the appropriate authorities.

"Any activity in the region that is deemed to be dangerous to the public then obviously you can't ask the people to go into the area," he continued.

"We'll take advice from the South Australian Police, the Country Fire Service and make a decision."

Temperatures in Adelaide have soared in excess of 45 °C forcing teams to train in the early morning and avoid the midday heat this week. However, cooler conditions have been forecast for the six-stage race and tomorrow's prelude criterium, which Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) convincingly won last year.

Turtur clarified the mercury will not impact on the running of the event.

"We're governed by UCI rules. There's no heat policy with the UCI," he said.

Cadel Evans (BMC) as well as newly crowned national road champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Spaniard Javier Moreno (Movistar) were at the press conference.

Evans, Gerrans, Sky's Richie Porte and Robert Gesink (Belkin) have been identified as overall favourites ahead of the race that has also attracted a world-class sprint field including Greipel, quadruple Tour de France stage winner Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Twitter: @SophieSmith86


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