Heatwave sparks fires in Barossa Valley, race director says safety must come first

Bush fires in South Australia could force the cancellation of Tuesday’s opening stage of the Santos Tour Down Under, the first UCI WorldTour race of the season.

Australia has been hit by a heatwave this week, with temperatures hitting 44 degrees Celsius in Adelaide, where the race is based, on Thursday.

That has led to bushfires breaking out close to the route of Stage 1, which runs through the Barossa Valley wine-growing region.

"If it's a no-go zone for the Barossa, it's a no-go zone - simple as that," said race director Mike Turtur, quoted by Reuters.

He said the stage could potentially be cancelled, “depending on the advice from the correct people.”

Turtur added: "Any activity in the region that's deemed to be dangerous to the public, then obviously you can't ask people to go into the area.

"It would be crazy to do that."

The opening stage is unlikely to be influential in terms of the overall standings, and two-time winner and race favourite Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge said: "You just move onto the second stage, everyone is in the same situation."

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.