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The South Australian branch of Extinction Rebellion has announced plans to disrupt the upcoming Santos Cycling Festival in protest against the event’s sponsor.

The group says it will set up roadblocks to peacefully stop the men’s and women’s stage races, which will run from January 21-29. These races are part of the Santos Festival of Cycling, held for the second consecutive year in place of the elite-level Tour Down Under due to current Covid restrictions.

Oil and gas producer Santos, which has sponsored the Tour Down Under since 2010, is one of Australia’s worst greenhouse gas emitters. Its status as the race’s naming rights sponsor has long been considered one of cycling’s most egregious forms of “greenwashing”.

Announcing their protest, Extinction Rebellion tweeted: “One of the world’s worst carbon polluters, Santos continues to pursue massive oil and gas expansion in Australia and around the world. Their actions will drive global emissions to tipping points from which there will be no turning back. They must be stopped. »

“We understand that people will be frustrated by this action, but we cannot continue to give Santos our social consent,” said Anna Slynn, one of the group’s leaders. “We intend to bring the race to a safe stop. We are declaring our intention today so that race organizers are prepared when this happens.”

For a mode of transport so intrinsically associated with green living, the environmental record of professional cycling (spoiler – it’s not great) has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.

There has been increasing pressure on teams and races to avoid sponsors intending to ‘whitewash’ their earth-damaging activities by associating with an environmentally friendly activity like cycling.

During the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire, anti-fracking campaigners protested against petrochemical giant Ineos, sponsor of a team, let’s not forget, who wore a special rainforest rescue jersey during the Tour de France 2011. In 2012, Australia’s GreenEdge team, created with the apparent aim of promoting green travel (the clue is in the name), also faced widespread criticism when it incongruously accepted the company Orica mining as main sponsor.

Asked last year about the race’s relationship with Santos for a Procycling article on the environmental impact of sport, Hitaf Rasheed, Executive Director of Events South Australia, said: “While none of our sponsors are directly involved in the organization or management of [the Tour Down Under], we value these partnerships as they allow the race to continue to grow and elevate the event to a world-class offering.


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