Organisers of the cancelled L'Etape vow the cycling event will be resurrected and Wollongong will not be overlooked to host it in 2022.
Race director Florent Malézieux said they had lost all faith in investing in the Shoalhaven after their council's decision to withdraw support over road closure concerns, but wanted to keep the Tour de France event in NSW.
"The event is very strong, recognised and loved in Australia," he said. "We have delivered four editions in the Snowy Mountains and built a community of over 25,000 riders. L'Étape Australia will continue to exist, but as event organisers and major investors in the region, we have lost faith in investing in the Shoalhaven.
"We will explore all options to design a course that is up to the Tour de France standards and that will showcase the host region."
Mr Malézieux said moving the 136km race in and around Wollongong would be explored, though the area would need to meet Tour de France standards including distance, elevation (hilly terrain) plus how iconic and scenic the course would be.
"The route we had designed around Kiama and the Southern Highlands [and Shoalhaven] ticked all the boxes and would have been the most beautiful event of the series," he said, adding L'Étape is part of a 20-event series across 14 countries.
On Wednesday, The Greens called for Wollongong City Council to officially invite the competition to town as a "warm-up event" for the annual cycling road race championships by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
"The Southern suburbs of Wollongong have routes that could be incorporated into the race," said Greens candidate for the council elections Jess Whittaker.
"It could stick to the original plan to start in Kiama, move up into the Southern Highlands then finish in Wollongong via Marshall Mount, at Lake Illawarra or Belmore Basin. Loops of certain areas could be incorporated to get the distance right."
Stu Taggart, who will oversee the delivery of the UCI World Road Championships in Wollongong, believed the forced cancellation of L'Etape would be felt widely through the cycling community and have wider ramifications with event organisers and the "choices they make moving forward from the South Coast".
"An event like this is very much aligned to some of the broader cycling tourism strategies that we're working towards, definitely about bringing cyclists to the region," he said.
"It's really important the communities that are going to host these events need to be fully engaged and informed of their benefits and the opportunities they deliver."
He said tourism was suffering and now was not the time to withdraw support for events and activities that provide "exactly the sort of stimulus that the sector is crying out for".
However, he said the UCI in Wollongong was till on track to deliver millions of dollars to the local economy in September 2022.
Meantime, Destination Wollongong boss Mark Sleigh also weighed in his disappointment, but said it was a sign of the times and an indication of the challenges in delivering an event of that complexity across multiple jurisdictions.
"It's disappointing to see L'Etape cancelled - it's a wonderful event to showcase the region," he said. "Overall, the Illawarra has a strong track record in delivering major events and recognising their impact. Wollongong certainly benefits greatly from the boost it gives our visitor economy."
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