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Tour Down Under opening stage to go ahead as planned

(Reuters) - The opening stage of cycling's Tour Down Under will go ahead as planned, its race director said on Monday, though the Tour is taking advice from authorities about the danger fires pose to the route.

The six-stage Tour is scheduled to start on Tuesday, with the 135 km first stage running through the Barossa Valley, which is currently under threat from fires.

The Tour said it was taking advice from the Country Fire Service and South Australian Police and decided to go ahead with the stage based on their advice.

"Obviously this advice might change subject to the conditions and we'll continue to be guided by the advice we receive from the Country Fire Service and South Australian Police," race director Mike Turtur said in a statement.

"But our advice is that the race route and the towns through which the race will travel are not in the fire area and it is safe for us to continue as planned."

Fires in the Barossa Valley have threatened lives and destroyed properties as extreme heat and high winds fanned dozens of bushfires across Australia.

It also nearly led to the Tour's first potential stage cancellation or course change since its 1999 inception.

"Our thoughts are with the people affected by the fires but we urge cycling fans to help them through this by supporting the local economies of the region," said Turtur.

"Spending money in the shops and restaurants will help in the recovery for the area."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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