Read the inside story from our Race Director about the impact of COVID-19 on cycling, and the vision for our 2022 return.

How was the decision made to cancel the 2021 UCI WorldTour Elite Men’s Road Race and the UCI Women’s WorldTour Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race?

We’ve done everything we can to get our UCI WorldTour and UCI 1.1 circuit races happening, but sadly it’s not to be.

We recognise how difficult 2020 has been for teams and the international cycling calendar. A number of teams have told us that with the ongoing global pandemic, it’s preferable to stay close to Europe for the start of the year and won’t travel to Australia in 2021 to race.

We’re disappointed, but completely understand the difficult position teams are in. We wish them the best of luck for the 2021 UCI WorldTour and can’t wait to welcome everyone back to Victoria in 2022.

We also make this announcement after close consultation throughout the year with the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) in regards to their Santos Tour Down Under event.

Since the pandemic took hold, just after our 2020 event, we have been working closely with all of our stakeholders. Visit Victoria has undertaken a comprehensive strategic Principal Risk Assessment of possible scenarios and their implications, and we have consulted closely with SATC.

I would like to thank our local workforce, incredible partners and volunteers for their unwavering support. Many who have felt the full effects of this pandemic. We look forward to joining with them for the return of Australia’s Premier Weekend of Cycling.

Race Director Scott Sunderland gets the 2020 Deakin University Elite Women’s Road Race underway. Photo: Con Chronis / Getty Images

TAC Race Torquay will be back in 2022, what is your vision for the future of this race?

We have made the difficult call not to stage the TAC Race Torquay in 2021. But, rest assured, after the huge success of our UCI 1.1. circuit races this year – won by the man of the moment Sam Bennett and our Aussie champ Brodie Chapman – we cannot wait to bring TAC Race Torquay back in 2022! We will be looking at how to demand strategy and speed from the world’s greatest riders with this course. And, I hope we can replicate the carnival atmosphere we all enjoyed at this year’s foreshore festival.

Sadly, we won’t be hosting the Swisse People’s Ride and VEGEMITE® Family Ride in January, what is your message to our riders and families?

We are just as disappointed as our thousands of riders who participate in our Swisse People’s Ride and VEGEMITE® Family Ride every summer. Just remember, 2022 is going to be the big one. The Swisse People’s Ride will be all about celebrating 10 years since Cadel won the Tour de France, and it’s guaranteed to be a ride to remember.

In the meantime, we have seen an incredible uptake in cycling for fitness, recreation and commuting as a result of the pandemic. The Victorian Government has announced more than 100 kilometres of new and improved cycling routes in Melbourne and our Race Torquay partner, the Transport Accident Commission, has been instrumental in the introduction of mandatory minimum passing distances in 2021. We know staying connected, fit and healthy is more important than ever – that’s why we are working on exciting new experiences for riders of all ages and abilities this summer.

More than 3000 riders joined Cadel in the 2020 Swisse People’s Ride. Photo: Beardy McBeard

You are also the Race Director for the prestigious Flanders Classics, how did the restart of the Belgium races go?

We have organised these races twice this year due to the pandemic and interruptions to the international cycling calendar. At the time of the classics, we were fortunate to receive advice from government and medical experts that meant we could stage the races in October. There have been some incredible results – especially in-form Australian Grace Brown (Mitchelton-SCOTT) picking up her first European victory at De Brabantse Pijl, and Caleb Ewan putting his foot to the floor to win Scheldeprijs.

What were your highlights of the Tour de France and Road World Championships?

It was fantastic to see Richie Porte get his podium finish. I’ve also enjoyed the rising of the younger generation. The Slovenians Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), and Swiss rider Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) are all in their early 20s. Perhaps it is because of their age that they have been able to adapt to the uncertainty of this year. Whereas many of the more seasoned riders are quite set and reliant on their usual schedules. Sam Bennett (winner of our 2020 Race Torquay) had a terrific Tour de France winning the green jersey with a very strong team around him (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and, after a challenging year, I think Julian Alaphilippe is a deserving UCI Road World Champion.

Who should we keep an eye on in women’s cycling?

Women’s racing this year, even with COVID-19, is benefiting greatly from a greater depth of teams and financial backing, which is very encouraging. There will be two new Women’s WorldTour teams next year taking us to 10, and I expect we’ll see the level of racing rise again. There’s no doubt the country to beat at the moment is Holland with Annemiek van Vleuten racing well before crashing at the Giro Rosa, and Anna van der Breggen winning a host of major championships, classics and stage races!

As told to Harriet Edmund

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