A MAJOR cycling festival set to inject more than $3 million into the local economy could be coming to Port Douglas in September this year.
Cairns-based event company Connect Sport Australia is working on funding applications for their proposal for a three-day event on September 10-12 to lure cyclists and their families from around Australia to Port Douglas prior to the school holidays.
Douglas Shire Council today agreed to provide a letter of support for the event.
Connect Sport Australia Managing Director Bade Stapleton had been meeting with people and businesses throughout the community, including Council.
“Port Douglas Gran Fondo Festival will include three cycling distances to appeal to a broad cross-section of riders ranging from enthusiasts to serious cyclists,” he said.
“The most popular distance will be the 100km ride from Port Douglas to Palm Cove and back, while the 46km one-way ride from Palm Cove to Port Douglas will be open to anyone who has ever wanted to safely ride the iconic Great Barrier Reef Drive.”
“We have included a 160km challenge for the more adventurous that takes in the 5km climb up Quaid Road and across to the Mulligan Highway which will remain open to traffic. Cyclists will then ride on open roads through Mount Molloy and Julatten, before descending down the Rex Range and back into Port Douglas.”
“The weekend will kick off on Friday September 10 with a sponsors’ expo at the Port Douglas Sports Complex followed by an official launch on Saturday September 11 at Hemingway’s Brewery.”
“Saturday’s events will include criterium races around the 2.2km circuit in front of the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina.”
“Families with young kids can then enjoy riding around the circuit in a safe and fully closed road which will be a great opportunity for local families to get involved.
“Once the Wangetti Trail is completed the Port Douglas Gran Fondo Festival will include a mountain bike event from Wangetti to Port Douglas on the Saturday morning.
“In the evening we will have local bands, a DJ and an MC calling sprint races along the 250m Wharf Street straight with two cyclists at a time racing to the finish line outside Hemingway’s.
“Connect Sport is building an entire weekend of activity to bring more than 3500 travellers into the region and will offer accommodation and itinerary options suitable for cyclists and their families to ensure they extend their stay.
“Port Douglas is the perfect location for a gran fondo – a European term for a big bike ride – as the festival will take over the community with cyclists and their families filling cafes restaurants, markets, supporting local retailers and visiting the many tourism operators within the Douglas Shire.
“The Port Douglas Gran Fondo Festival has the potential to be a $10 million event based on Amy’s Gran Fondo which injected $11.6 million into the Great Ocean Road’s economy in 2016.”
Mr Stapleton has been meeting with local stakeholders concerned about the closure of the Captain Cook Highway to discuss how to minimise the impact on their business.
It is proposed the Palm Cove to Wangetti stretch of the highway will be closed from 5.30am to 11.30am and the Wangetti to Port Douglas stretch from 6am until 1.30pm on Sunday September 12.
Exemplar Coaches and Limousines owner Gordon Wellham praised Connect Sport for the initiative, acknowledging that disruptions to his business would be worthwhile for the good of the wider community.
“Any event that promotes the region and, in particular, Port Douglas is sure to be valuable to local businesses, especially after the challenges of 2020,” he said.
“It is also commendable that the organisers are giving consideration to locals, tourism operators and the transport operators that utilise the Captain Cook Highway in their planning for the event.”
Thala Beach Nature Reserve Manager Johan Klindt said Connect Sport had been proactive in working with Thala to miminise the impact of the road closure on the property.
“We can work around the road being closed for half a day and believe the Port Douglas Gran Fondo Festival should give both Port Douglas and Palm Cove a healthy economic injection,” he said.
Connect Sport is the leading charity cycling event company in Australia having managed events for various charities including the Cancer Council South Australia’s Beat Cancer Tour within the Santos Tour Down Under, UCI World Tour Event.