Tour Down Under to start on schedule after wildfire brought under control

A wildfire in the Barossa Valley threatened the opening stage of the race before authorities got it under control

ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) — Australia’s Tour Down Under will start on Tuesday as planned after authorities confirmed a bush fire in the Barossa Valley was under control.

The first stage of the season opening UCI World Tour event from Nuriootpa to Angaston had been in doubt because of a major fire in the area, a result of a heat wave in South Australia last week.

But race director Mike Turtur said the fire was now contained and the race would start as scheduled.

“Our advice is that the race route and the towns through which the race will travel are not in the fire area and it is safe for us to continue as planned,” Turtur said. “[After] the extreme weather of last week, we’ve been blessed with [good] conditions for the whole race, it’s looking terrific.

“We can thank our lucky stars.”

Turtur said there were no concerns that smoke would affect the riders.

“Our belief is that the air in and around the race circuit is pretty well clear, so it shouldn’t be an issue,” he said.

He added that the race would have plans in place in case the fire flared up.

“We’ll deal with that if and when it happens — we have certain procedures in place,” Turtur said. “We will monitor the thing as we go.

“I make it clear that our first thought about our activity with the Tour was based on the welfare of the community in the region. The race always came second.”