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Herald Sun Tour canceled as impacts of COVID-19 reach into 2021

Australian race is among first to cancel an event for next season.

The coronavirus is already putting a pinch on the 2021 racing season.

Officials from the Jayco Herald Sun Tour confirmed Friday it will not hold its men’s and women’s races of its 2021 edition scheduled for February.

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“As Australia’s oldest cycling stage race, we have not taken this decision lightly,” race director Tom Salom said in a statement Friday. “The high level of uncertainty created by the current COVID-19 environment in Victoria presents too many challenges to proceed with the 2021 events.”

The announcement comes as the Tour de France is set to start August 29 in Nice under a mix of hope and anxiety that cycling’s most important stage race will be able to be raced without major mishap.

The coronavirus has already wreaked havoc on much of the 2020 racing season, and officials are hopeful to squeeze out all three grand tours and remaining monuments this fall before calling curtains on what’s been an unprecedented series of events across the globe.

The ongoing world pandemic, however, is already spilling over into 2021.

Anchored by WorldTour events at the Santos Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Australia has emerged as a preferred starting point for many of cycling’s biggest stars, including Peter Sagan and Chris Froome. Warm weather and wide-open roads make Australia an ideal spot to ease into a busy racing season.

The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and Australia is imposing some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world in light of ongoing COVID-19 cases. Right now, Melbourne is under a level-four lockdown as officials in the Victoria state, where the five-day race, is held is trying to control a new wave of infections.

Citing travel and health uncertainty, Herald Sun Tour officials decided Friday to postpone the race until 2022 despite the starting dates still being some five months away.

Last week, officials from the WorldTour calendar opener at the Santos Tour Down Under vowed to hold their race in some form in January. Depending on travel and health restrictions, the race might be held only with national teams in 2021.

“We are committed to delivering the Santos Tour Down Under for South Australia and creating an event that is safe for all,” Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed told the Adelaide Advertiser. “At the same time, and like many organizations and events, we are working on a number of different scenarios to ensure it is a COVID-safe event for our spectators, teams and all key stakeholders.

“Many of these scenarios are dependent upon external parties and actions, such as border closures, quarantine restrictions, flights, and access into South Australia.”

There is still no word yet from officials from the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, held a week after the Town Down Under, and which opens the women’s WorldTour calendar and is the second race on the men’s WorldTour calendar.

Australia managed to hold its 2020 racing calendar without incident from December into February 2020. At the time, raging bush fires were the imminent threat, but the coronavirus swept out of China and soon put the brakes on racing around the world by mid-March, with Paris-Nice as the last major race before lockdown.