This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.
ProTour Cycling Goes Down Under.
President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UC), Mr Pat McQuaide, announced the ProTour series will kick off in South Australia in January 2008.
‘I'm very pleased with the news today from the Professional Cycling Council (UC) that we will be bringing the Tour Down Under into the Pro Tour,' Mr McQuaide said. ‘This is just reward for an event going into it's tenth year that gets better and better each year, increased media attention in Europe is a testament to the sport of cycling. I am personally pleased as this is working towards the globalisation of the sport.'
The Tour Down Under has been operating for ten years outside the Pro Tour by attracting teams wanting to prepare for the ProTour with competitive racing. Previous winners of the Tour Down Under include Martin Elmiger (SUI), Simon Gerrans (Aus)
Mikel Astarloza (ESP), Gilles Maigan (FRA) from the AG2R – Prevoyance team. The only dual winner is Stuart O'Grady (AUS) from the Credit Agricole Team.
Australia won the event over such competing countries as the USA (California), Russia, and China. Perhaps a factor in the decision was the major sponsorship the Skoda Motor Company, they are looking to introduce their cars into Australia this year. They see the Tour Down Under as an ideal vehicle to publicise their brand of motor vehicles. The worldwide television audience is obviously a drawcard for sponsors.
The Tour Down Under is raced around the streets of Adelaide and out into the very picturesque country areas of South Australia. The wine country of the Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills and beautiful beaches provide a spectacular backdrop for the tour and already attracts thousands of spectators.
Now with ProTour status organisers are expecting more teams to compete, more spectators with more tourists to visit South Australia during and after the tour.
This is great news to the people of South Australia and the large European television audience who will see the incredibly tough racing that has been a feature of old Tour Down Under. Now the racing is expected to go to another level.