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Tour Down Under to provide boost for Adelaide Hills communities hit by Cudlee Creek bushfire

By Matt Coleman and Daniel Keane, Tuesday January 7, 2020 - 12:47 EDT

Urgent efforts are underway to ensure several stages of the Tour Down Under (TDU) cycling race are safe for riders, and to encourage spectators to line the bushfire-hit routes involved.

Both the women's and men's races are scheduled to go through parts of the Adelaide Hills which have been left devastated by the recent Cudlee Creek blaze.

The internationally-renowned event starts on January 16 with the women's race, which will include two Adelaide Hills stages.

Stage two of the men's race on January 22 will take teams and spectators to Woodside, and stage three the following day will go through Lobethal.

Properties in both towns were , which killed one person and injured others.

"We've been working feverishly to make sure that the route is safe and that means that lots of tree clearance and some minor road repairs [will be done]," Adelaide Hills Mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom said.

"Roads weren't too badly affected at all, but our absolute top priority of course is the safety of the riders and the spectators."

However, one caller to ABC Radio Adelaide expressed concern about the possibility of dead and dying tree branches falling onto riders.

"The reality now is that the Adelaide Hills Council have been made aware of some extremely dangerous trees," he said.

"I just don't want to know that we're going to have a class action against us or shall we say an international insurance claim, because some of these trees fall on the riders."

Dr Wisdom acknowledged that there had been a "great deal of tree damage" but said the criticism was "unfair".

"We will ensure that those trees that are dangerous are looked after and dealt with," she said.

Dr Wisdom also said there was a possibility of "last-minute changes" to race routes because of weather conditions, or elevated fire danger, while race organisers have also committed to ensuring "the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved".

"The council and [the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure] are working hard to ensure the routes are safe so both the men's and women's races can go ahead as planned," race organisers said.

"We are working closely with council, emergency services and the local communities and will continue to monitor the situation.

"The most significant thing we as a race can do at this time is to promote that the Adelaide Hills are open for business, to promote the region and encourage people to travel into and support the region."

Race will promote 'community wellbeing'

Dr Wisdom echoed that sentiment, saying that the race going ahead as planned was a key part of the region's recovery from the Cudlee Creek bushfire.

"We're just so pleased that the TDU are going to be coming up … we want to provide a bit of sparkle and colour, you know, for the community as part of their wellbeing," Dr Wisdom said.

"We want people to enjoy this event … we want to bring some much needed colour and tourism into the area … so really, the message is come up to support us."

Avalon of Woodside cafe chef Min Ko estimated her business had lost up to $4,000 because of the bushfire.

"Normally before Christmas, people want to get together — meet friends or family in a cafe. After the bushfire, all the bookings cancelled and it was terrible," she said.

She said while the TDU had not produced a spike in bookings so far, she was remaining optimistic.

Lobethal Bakery co-owner Naomi Trinkle said while business had so far been "over and above what we expected", the cycling race was expected to provide another welcome boost.

"It's been absolute bedlam. It's been amazing, we have been really blessed, I must say, with a lot of customers coming in who are cleaning up or just coming into the recovery centre," she said.

"Cyclists just line their bikes up on the bakery, and it's just hundreds of bikes.

"We're really getting ready for that ... we get such an influx of cyclists who come in from all of Australia."

However, economic prospects currently seem less promising for tourism operators in another bushfire-affected part of South Australia — Kangaroo Island.

Businesses there are pleading with holiday-makers to stick to their plans to visit, amid reports that people are ringing up and cancelling bookings they have made for February, March, April and May.

"It's the tourists that are going to help us keep this economy going and the community going," general manager of the Aurora Ozone Hotel in Kingscote, Mary-Lou Corcoran, told ABC Radio's AM program.

" [such as] beautiful beaches, great wineries."


© ABC 2020

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