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Fire threatens Tour Down Under opening stage

January 18, 2014

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Bushfires threatening South Australia state may force organizers of the first ProTour cycling event of the year, the Tour Down Under, to cancel Tuesday’s opening stage.

Four large fires are burning in the state, one of which is threatening the wine-growing Barossa Valley through which the opening stage is due to pass. Tour director Mike Turtur said organizers would confer with state authorities before deciding whether it is safe for the 135-kilometer stage from Nuriootpa to Angaston, north of the city of Adelaide, to go ahead.

Turtur said on Saturday that “if it’s a no-go zone for the Barossa, it’s a no-go zone, simple as that.”

″(It’s) possibly the cancellation of the stage, depending on the advice from the correct people. 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.”

If a stage cancellation occurs, it would be the first in the 15-year history of the Tour Down Under.

“It’s not an easy situation,” Turtur said. “We exist in a volatile environment with climatic conditions. Fire has always been a big consideration for us.”

Turtur said hot, windy conditions made prediction difficult.

“It’s changing constantly - it’s the wind that’s the problem,” Turtur said.

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