Peloton Watch
  The Oceania Tour - Where To From Here  
  November 13th 2012  
  In 2005 the Oceania Tour had 5 races (plus the Oceania Championship TT and RR). This year however there will be just 1, the New Zealand Cycle Classic plus the Oceania Championship TT and RR. With the way cycling has progressed in Australia, especially with the formation of Orica-GreenEDGE does this make sense to anyone?

On Monday the Australian Financial Review reported that there has been speculation that the Jayco Herald Sun Tour could eventually be superseded in Victoria by a revamped Tour Down Under. If as expected Victoria goes after the rights to host the Tour Down Under a battle between Victoria and South Australia could result. If it happens as the article suggests Australia could lose the Jayco Herald Sun Tour to be replaced with a Tour Down Under equivalent in Victoria but potentially no race in South Australia.

Why take two successful events in their own right and then come out with just one? If Victoria wants to develop a WT race then they should be encouraged to do so. But it is important to realize it has to be done in a way that advances the sport not just bragging rights for a State Government. Keeping the Tour Down Under in South Australia and expanding the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in to another World Tour race is an obvious improvement. It is important to remember the Tour Down Under did not start out as a World Tour race. 

The Jayco Herald Sun Tour will only be a national event in 2013 due to schedule clashes with its previous date of October. It is a tough ask to go from national event to the World Tour in one swoop. Firstly the Jayco Herald Sun Tour needs to return to 2.1 (hopefully this could be achieved in 2014). From here the next step could be to move to 2.HC before moving to a WT event. This is the way the Tour Down Under progressed. 

Instead of Victoria targeting a WT event be that the Jayco Herald Sun Tour or another race it can be just as big but rated 2.HC. Look at events such as the Tour of California, USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tour of Turkey, Tour of Qatar. All are big races that attract big WT teams but are not in the World Tour. Another advantage of 2.HC or 2.1 classified races is that smaller Australian teams are eligible to participate. This gives younger riders experience racing against big WT teams.

Currently there is no 2.HC or 2.1 races in Australia or in the Oceania Tour. The first step of building up the Oceania Tour would be as mentioned previously for the Jayco Herald Sun Tour to move back to 2.1. The Tour WA was listed on the original 2012-2013 Oceania Tour, but has now been removed. The development of this race would be a further positive step. 

The existing New Zealand Cycle Classic (rated 2.2) should be retained as 2.2 allowing small teams from Australia and New Zealand to have a good chance at winning. Tour of Southland is still held in New Zealand but is not part of the Oceania Tour. Moving this back to 2.2 should also be an early step. The race still occurs and having it rated 2.2 maintains the atmosphere of only small teams most likely from Australia and New Zealand. Excluding the bigger names allows young riders to shine and attract interest from larger teams. Having the race in a larger Oceania Tour also gives teams and riders the ability to target the overall win of the Oceania Tour.

The National Road Series helps to foster young talent but these races could be incorporated in to an expanded Oceania Tour. The Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic was once part of the Oceania Tour classified as 1.2. If it were to return to the Oceania Tour it would add an important one-day race to the mix.

There has been much talk of the Tour of Tasmania moving to be classified 2.1. It is also part of the National Road Series, as such the infrastructure and support exists. Riders including Cadel Evans, Leigh Howard, Simon Gerrans, Richie Porte and Nathan Haas have enjoyed huge success in Tasmania.

Just by aiming to move some races up in UCI classifications the Oceania Tour could take a big step in the right direction.

2012-2013 Oceania Tour
Race Country Rating
New Zealand Cycle Classic NZL 2.2
Oceania TT Championship AUS CC
Oceania RR Championship AUS CC

With the addition of the races mentioned

Race Country Suggested Rating Notes
Jayco Herald Sun Tour AUS 2.1  
Tour WA AUS 2.1 New Race
Tour of Tasmania AUS 2.2 or 2.1 Current NRS Race
Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic AUS 1.2 Current NRS Race
New Zealand Cycle Classic NZL 2.2  
Tour of Southland NZL 2.2 Non Oceania Tour Race
Oceania TT Championship AUS/NZL CC 1 Year in Aus Next NZL
Oceania RR Championship AUS/NZL CC 1 Year in Aus Next NZL

With only one new race (already targeting 2.1) and working to increase the classification on existing races the Oceania Tour goes from 3 events to 8 events. This leaves scope for other National Road Series events to be moved in to the Oceania Tour at classifications that ensure opportunities for young riders to develop.

A final point to consider is that races in the Oceania Tour give riders points for top 10 finishes and wins etc. The current points system is broken but at least for now it is something riders, teams and fans will have to live with. Obviously a rider being given a contract just for their points is not something anyone wants to see. However it may bring more young riders to the attention of World Tour teams.

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