The world cycling body has granted another extension to the Santos Tour Down Under to ensure it remains the opening stage of the UCI WorldTour.
Premier Mike Rann has announced that the STDU has secured a new four-year WorldTour Licence for the Event, until at least 2015.
The announcement comes as two of the sport's greats, five time Tour de France winner, Eddy Merckx and his Belgium compatriot, track and road all-rounder Patrick Sercu, confirmed they will attend the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under to be special guests at next year's STDU and headline the Legends' Night Dinner.
Announcing the licence extension, Premier Mike Rann said the UCI's decision ensures that the Santos Tour Down Under remained in the top league of international cycling.
“The announcement reinforces the success of the Santos Tour Down Under which has grown to be South Australia's biggest sporting event, the biggest cycling event in the southern hemisphere and one of the best cycling races in the world,” he said.
“Since 2008, when we became the first race outside Europe to be part of the ProTour, now WorldTour, the Santos Tour Down Under has grown dramatically in key areas, including crowd numbers, media coverage and economic impact.
“Attendance figures pre-ProTour were 357,000 compared with 782,393 in 2011, while the economic impact has grown from $11.5 million in 2007 to $43.3 million at this year's event,” Mr Rann said
UCI President Pat McQuaid said: “We are very pleased that the License Commission has extended the Santos Tour Down Under license until 2015, which means that this race will be part of the prestigious UCI WorldTour for the next four years at least.
“This is a particularly important time for cycling in Australia. The huge wave of popularity generated by Cadel Evans‟ historic win at the Tour de France this summer, after his World Championship triumph two years ago, has created an unprecedented momentum for our sport in Australia, which has contributed to the impressive growth of this event.
Santos Chief Executive David Knox congratulated Events SA on securing UCI WorldTour status until at least 2015.
“I am delighted that the Santos Tour Down Under continues to be ranked among the world's best cycling events.
“Santos is proud to support this world-class event attended by hundreds of thousands of people from across Australia and overseas, with a significant positive economic impact on the local economy,” Mr Knox said.
The new UCI WorldTour Licence was approved by the UCI License Commission at its recent meeting in Lausanne.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister John Rau said cycling fans across Australia have the chance to dine with Merckx and Sercu at the Legends' Night Dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre, on Saturday, 21 January 2012.
“Merckx's professional career spanned from 1965 to 1978 where he won every major Classic and one-day event in road cycling,” Mr Rau said.
Having worn the yellow jersey for a record 96 days throughout his career, the Belgian had the nickname of "the Cannibal" and is considered as "the greatest and most successful cyclist of all time" by international cycling
Community relations, South Australia