The 2021 Tour Down Under has been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Australian stage race was set to be the first race of the 2021 season, and with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race also called off, WorldTour racing now won't get underway again until February at the earliest.
"Despite best efforts, it is with regret we announce that the Santos Tour Down Under will not go ahead in 2021. Cycling will however still be ever-present in the streets of Adelaide and regional South Australia, with a smaller domestic cycling festival to take its place in January 2021," read the statement from race organisers.
With Australia having recovered from a second coronavirus spike in August, the number of cases now remain low. Inviting hundreds of riders and teams from all over the globe when Europe is currently entering its second wave meant holding the race with WorldTour teams in attendance was always going to be difficult.
"We have done all we can to consider how we can deliver it, but unfortunately, in the end, it was the international component, with over 400 people that make up the international teams, that proved to be the most difficult to overcome,” organiser Hitaf Rasheed said.
Retired Australian pro rider Stuart O'Grady was all set for his first year as race director and says he is "devastated" to have to postpone the race.
"Of course I am disappointed, but given the challenges, our priority needs to be the health and safety of South Australians, our communities, and the international cycling fraternity," the 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner said. "I believe that for one year we can put delivering an international event aside, and keep our South Australian heart beating by delivering a new, re-imagined event for cyclists and for communities across the nation."
The Tour Down Under will therefore next be held in 2022 as the WorldTour season opener. For 2021, the season should now begin on February 21 at the UAE Tour, which was the scene of the first coronavirus outbreak in the peloton earlier this year.
The cancelled Australian races will be good news for pros, who will now get a longer off-season. With the Vuelta a España finishing on November 9, there were only 71 days between the end of the Spanish Grand Tour and the start of the Tour Down Under.
Now, riders will have at least 104 days off if they take part in both the Vuelta and the UAE Tour.
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