AUSTRALIA'S best road cyclists will be disadvantaged in the January national titles by rules that prevent most of them from entering an important preparatory stage race.
Race director of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, John Trevorrow, said ''paranoia in South Australia'' had resulted in the lose-lose situation in which the majority of Australia's road professionals were excluded from a four-day event that most would ideally use as a pre-nationals tune-up.
Cycling's world governing body, the UCI, downgraded the status of the 2013 Herald Sun Tour to a level that prevents World Tour teams from entering. The downgrade means only six Australian professional riders are allowed to enter the race and must compete in a national team, selected by Cycling Australia, and that Australia's World Tour team, Orica-GreenEDGE, is banned.
Trevorrow is convinced organisers of Tour Down Under - a week-long stage race in Adelaide at the end of January - lobbied for the status downgrade of the Herald Sun Tour.
Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur, who has just lost his position as president of the UCI's Oceania Cycling Confederation, objected to the Victorian event moving from October to January, despite clear support from Australian pro riders and an improved domestic racing calendar in January.
The Herald Sun Tour runs from January 3-6, the national titles are in Ballarat from January 9-13, and Tour Down Under, which has World Tour status - meaning all the biggest teams in the world must enter - runs from January 22-27.
''The UCI said the status downgrade was because they don't want to have races in January. I can't say any more than that,'' Trevorrow said.
''They don't even want Down Under to be in January - they've been putting pressure on them to move out of January.
''I think there's a little bit of paranoia in South Australia that Major Events Victoria will put on a wonderful event with a stack of the pro teams and people won't go over to Tour Down Under. But, of course, they will go over. Tour Down Under is a World Tour event and it's a wonderful event.
''My feeling is that there are lots of nervous people around. The UCI say they're trying to keep January a bit free, but only teams that want to ride are going to ride and they don't understand the Australian and New Zealand situation. We only see our champions for that very small amount of time.''
Reigning Australian road champion Simon Gerrans, who is guaranteed one of six positions for the Herald Sun Tour, said the restrictions were disappointing.
''We're definitely very limited by only having six together as a national team. If the race was a professional event, we would see many, many more Australian pros on the start line,'' he said.
''And what we will see is that a lot of the guys who are racing in the [National Road Series teams] will have a big advantage over a lot of the professionals at the championships. I'm really happy to have been selected in that national team because I think it will be a real leg-up for the nationals and the Tour Down Under.''