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Tour Down Under goes ahead as wildfires recede

January 20, 2014

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Organizers of the Tour Down Under cycle race have confirmed the first stage will take place as scheduled on Tuesday as fears of wildfires receded in South Australia state.

Race director Mike Turtur said the 135-kilometer (84-mile) opening stage from Nurioopta to Angaston in the Barossa Valley wine-growing region will now proceed as planned. South Australia state has been ravaged by four wildfires in heatwave conditions over the past week, but Turtur said authorities are confident the fires are contained.

Turtur said organizers “can thank our lucky stars” they haven’t been forced to cancel a stage for the first time in event’s 16-year history.

″(After) the extreme weather of last week, we’ve been blessed with conditions for the whole race,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty good run over 16 years. Thankfully we’ve got away with this one by the looks of things.”

Turtur said smoke from the bushfires was unlikely to be a problem for riders.

“Our belief is that the air in and around the race circuit is pretty-well clear, so it shouldn’t be an issue,” he said.

Organizers have contingency plans in place if fires flare again.

“We’ll deal with that if and when it happens. We have certain procedures in place. We will monitor the thing as we go,” Turtur said.

The Tour Down Under, raced over six stages in the region around Adelaide, is the first event of the 2014 WorldTour.

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