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Tour Down Under considering its COVID options

Coronavirus reaching into 2021 season as organizers of WorldTour opener face tough choices.

COVID-19 is already reaching into 2021, and the men’s WorldTour season-opener at the Santos Tour Down Under is mulling its options as the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating.

Officials from the week-long Australian race — set to start January 19 with a women’s race starting January 14 — say they will make a firm decision by next week on if the race will be held or not. The main concerns are if international teams would be required to undergo a two-week quarantine upon arrival and crowd control for a race that typically draws tens of thousands of fans in the Aussie summer.

Events South Australia executive director Hitaf Rasheed said organizers are considering various options before making a final decision. Parts of Australia have been under restrictions while there is a strict, two-week quarantine period for anyone entering Australia.

“There are a lot of moving parts in making a decision like this,” Ms. Rasheed said. “There are many stakeholders, and we have been working closely with them to ensure we arrive at the best possible outcome for all concerned. It is important, and its importance is why we have worked so hard to consider if and how this event can be successfully delivered.”

The dilemma reveals that the coronavirus pandemic is already reaching into 2021.

The nearby Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, held the following weekend and comprising the women’s WorldTour opener and a men’s race, will also be impacted by similar issues. Officials from the Jayco Herald Sun Tour already confirmed it will not hold its men’s and women’s races of its 2021 edition scheduled for February. Other races on the international calendar in early 2021 could be impacted as well.

Worsening health conditions in France this week forced Tour de France officials to turn their annual prestige event of the 2021 course unveiling with thousands of cycling’s VIPs and dignitaries into a virtual event rescheduled for Sunday.

One option the Tour Down Under include creating a “working bubble” for incoming teams and riders where they could undergo an active quarantine, allowing riders to train at the same time they are physically isolated from the rest of the larger population. Locations such as Kangaroo Island or the rural wine country north of Adelaide are being considered.

If international riders cannot safely and efficiently arrive, another option is to consider a smaller edition of the race featuring local and national teams.

Local and national health and safety officials are involved in the process, and officials said a decision will be made by next week.