South Australian Government makes decision to exchange female podium models with junior cyclists at the 2017 Tour Down Under in January

There will be no podium girls at the 2017 Tour Down Under, after the Government of South Australia decided to withdraw its support for female models presenting prizes at the UCI WorldTour opener in January.

Junior cyclists will replace the podium girls, in a bid to convey a more positive image of women in sport.

According to Australia’s ABC News, the SA government had already withdrawn its funding of  ‘grid girls’ at the Clipsal 500 motor race.

Government of South Australia sport minister Leon Bignell said of that decision: “The Government’s paying for grid girls at the same time we’re putting money into mental health areas to help young women who have body image problems.”

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“What we actually want to do is inspire girls and young women who come to the motor racing to be car drivers or to be mechanics or to be engineers.”

The Tour Down Under is the opening race in the UCI’s 2017 WorldTour calendar and takes place in and around Adelaide, South Australia over January 17 to 22.

The use of podium girls has increasingly become a contentious issue. In 2015, the organisers of the Flanders Diamond Tour in Belgium came under heavy criticism for the use of bikini-clad women during the podium presentation of the UCI 1.1-ranked women’s race.

Cyclist Marijn de Vries branded the use of skimpily attired women ‘an utter disgrace’ and the race organiser apologised, saying that their appearance was down to a ‘local organiser’ responsible for the podium.

Current road race world champion Peter Sagan created a furore in 2013, when he pinched the bottom of a podium girl at the Tour of Flanders. He subsequently issued a public apology for the incident.