MILAN (VN) — Nairo Quintana, Peter Sagan, and Vincenzo Nibali will have to look for somewhere else to race in January. Thursday morning, reports trickled through from Argentina that the country’s major stage race, the Tour de San Luis, would not run in 2017 due to financial problems.
Local journalist Marcelo La Gattina reported the news via Twitter about the race that was due to run January 17-22.
Those stars and many other cyclists, like American Andrew Talansky (Cannondale – Drapac), welcomed the heat of central Argentina in mid-January to start their seasons. Most viewed it as a low-key alternative to the WorldTour-ranked Santos Tour Down Under, which sees much more aggressive racing from Australians and teams hoping to score early points.
“[The Tour Down Under] is too hard, it’s a WorldTour race,” said Mark Cavendish, who raced in 2013, 2014, and 2015. “[It’s] stressful. Physically it’s not any more demanding than it is here, but with WorldTour points available it’s stressful racing. If I was able to go well enough to win in the Tour Down Under then I don’t think I could do well again in July.”
Many others preferred the South American sun to the South Australian seaside race. Funding and fan support put the Tour Down Under race on another level.
“The weather is fine, there is a good organization and the race is suitable to build a solid base for the rest of the season,” said Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski.
Since it began in 2007, top professionals began flying to San Luis via Buenos Aires to begin their season. This year, Quintana (Movistar), world champion Sagan (Tinkoff), and Nibali (Astana) lined up. Quintana placed third, while his brother and teammate Dayer Quintana won the overall.
Sagan already confirmed that he would debut with new team Bora – Hansgrohe in the Tour Down Under next year, slated for January 17-22. The organizer promised bigger names for 2017. It reportedly is also expecting Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Chris Froome (Sky) on the start line.
The entire season will feel different in 2017 with several races now promoted from HC to WorldTour status. Following the Tour Down Under, cyclists can continue to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race one week later and now, race for WorldTour points.
The month of February looks busier. Instead of three Middle East races, there are now four: the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman, and the Abu Dhabi Tour. Both Qatar and Abu Dhabi have WorldTour status this year.
If one does not start his season in January, he can still put in plenty of miles around the Persian Gulf before heading back to Europe for the traditional classics and tours.
Argentina may still have an option in the new five-day Tour de San Juan. The race in the western part of country near its border with Chile should have 2.1 status and run from January 24-29.