One of Australia’s most elite cycling events, L’Etape Australia, has been cancelled following backlash from Shoalhaven councillors and local businesses.
- The 2021 L’Etape cycling event spanning Kiama, the Shoalhaven, and Southern Highlands is cancelled
- Organisers say they were blindsided by a council decision and have lost confidence in investing in the region
- The Kiama mayor and other tourism representatives say it’s a huge loss during an already difficult time
The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and moved from March this year, to December, due to extreme weather conditions.
It would have started in Kiama, with the route travelling through Berry, Kangaroo Valley, and Robertson before returning to the start.
Organiser Florent Malezieuz said he had been communicating with Shoalhaven City Council working toward a December 2021 race.
“We were blindsided,” Mr Malezieuz said.
“We’ve lost confidence in investing in the Shoalhaven for a massive event like L’Etape Australia.
Shoalhaven councillor Andrew Guile has defended the decision to discourage the event.
He said it was enthusiastically supported initially, but once plans for the race were revealed businesses began to raise concerns.
“A lot of our business, particularly in Berry and Kangaroo Valley, relies on passing trade,” Cr Guile said.
“At the end of the day if you are going to shut down the local roads for a significant amount of time on any weekend day you are going to create issues.
Cancellation a blow to tourism industry
L’Etape runs a year-long marketing campaign promoting its race region leading up to the event.
It also draws more than 3,000 competitors, plus their families, to the host town and surrounding areas.
Chair of Destination Kiama and councillor, Matt Brown, said the decision to cancel L’Etape is heartbreaking for tourism operators in Kiama.
“This is heartbreaking and very disappointing,” Cr Brown said.
“Accommodation businesses are having to refund thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Cr Brown also said he was incredibly disappointed with the decision of Shoalhaven City Council.
“Kiama has always worked corporatively with the Shoalhaven but this decision was made unilaterally without any consultation with us,” he said.
The vice president of the Illawarra Cycling Club and vice chair of Destination Wollongong, Simon Kersten, said he too was disappointed and could not understand why businesses were so upset.
“For years we’ve been trying to bring tourism to the region.
“We’ve been trying to support local business, but in some areas those same local businesses are making the most noise about not having thousands of people there.”
There have been suggestions Wollongong, who will host the UCI Road World Cycling Championships in 2022, should offer to host L’Etape as a preview event.
Organisers of L’Etape said they would hold the event in 2022 but have not decided on a location.