At the 11th hour, organisers of the mass-participation L’Etape Australia ride that was meant to take place in Kiama this weekend have been forced to cancel the event.
The storm clouds have been hovering over the Shoalhaven and NSW southern highlands for a few days and heavy rain is expected to fall this weekend. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has forecast up to 200mm of rain on Saturday, when ±4,000 cyclists were due to cover one of two courses starting and finishing in Kiama.
“Cancelling the only Tour de France event in Australia is a very difficult decision to make,“ says L’Etape Australia’s Florent Malezieux, “but safety always comes first.
“I would like to thank all the NSW Government Agencies involved, and in particular the NSW Police Force and Transport for NSW, for their professional advice. I would also like to thank the Kiama Municipal Council, the Shoalhaven City Council and the Wingecarribee Shire Council for their support.”
And so, with a host of cyclists set to converge on the NSW coastal town in the coming days, the weather gods have stamped their authority and forced a regretful decision.
The itinerary was to send cyclists up the Fitzroy Pass after a relatively flat early section of the course. From there riders would traverse the southern highlands in the direction of Jamberoo and then descend into the valley before a final ascent at Saddleback Mountain.
Even in the dry this is a challenging course, but the risk of torrential rain and storms makes it too much of a risk.
The State Emergency Service is already likely to be on high alert because of the extreme weather in the coming days, so the cancellation of L’Etape Australia – while upsetting for those who were committed to the challenge, as well as local businesses and the organisers – was the prudent solution.
This event was already postponed from late last year when doubts about the feasibility of holding a mass-participation event during the pandemic forced organisers to reschedule.
The next edition is due to be held in Kiama in early-December 2021.
– By Rob Arnold