Friday, 22 March 2013

Women's Tour of Britain for 2014?

Organisers of the Tour of Britain SweetSpot say that they are investigating the possibility of holding a five-stage women's version of the race as early as Spring 2014. Details remain sketchy, but race director Mike Bennett says that he has spoken to riders and teams and the plan has been met with enthusiasm.

Emma Pooley, along with several other
British female riders, have been calling
for  a women's Tour for some time
In 2012, the women's road race at the Olympics proved to be enormously popular with viewing figures suggesting that large numbers of people without a previous interest in the sport tuned in to see the epic battle between Britain's Lizzie Armitstead and Dutch star Marianne Vos. Many later said that it had been a more exciting race than the men's event.

Running the race in Spring, separate from the men's race, seems an unusual choice - in Belgium, where women's cycling is more popular than elsewhere, several organisers run women's races alongside men's races in order to save on costs and guarantee that larger numbers of fans will show up. Emma Pooley, winner of the last Tour de France Féminin in 2009, has long called for the Tour of Britain to do the same.

With cycling's popularity currently on the up in Britain, presenting women's races as stand-alone events that do not need to be run in conjunction with men's races may help to send out a message to new fans that the sport is every bit as exciting and competitive as men's cycling, rather than suggesting that it can only exist "off the back" of men's races.

"It seems an obvious and logical step forward given the strength of women's cycling in this country and the enthusiasm for the sport generally," says Bennett.

In December it was revealed that British Cycling was considering putting the contract to run the race out to tender; news emerged hours after SweetSpot's announcement that Tour de France organisers the Amaury Sports Organisation was interested in bidding for the race - "It's something we're looking into, but I can't say too much," ASO president Jean-Etienne Amaury told the BBC. "But if we can make it something more compelling for TV and spectators, then we'd go for it," he added.

In addition to the Tour de France, the ASO also runs seventeen other cycling events including the Vuelta a Espana, Tours of Qatar, Oman and Beijing, the Criterium International and Paris-Roubaix. Only two of them - La Flèche Wallonne Féminine and the Ladies' Tour of Qatar - are women's events; but with the Women's Tour of Britain being a separate race to the men's race, it seems likely that SweetSpot would retain the right to organise and run it.

Whenever it's held, a women's Tour is clearly excellent news for the sport, in this country and abroad, and it's far more likely to take place if fans let organisers know how enthusiastic we are about the plan. Feel free to copy and paste the following, and send it to

As a passionate fan of women's cycling, I'm overjoyed and excited to hear that there could be a women's Tour of Britain as early as 2014. I would definitely travel to see at least one stage and would follow the race from start to finish - and with all the success enjoyed by Britain's female cyclists over the last few years, I'm sure that large numbers of people who are already fans and those who have discovered the sport since the Olympics would do the same. I'm hoping, therefore, that plenty of people will send emails similar to this one so that you can show potential sponsors that there really is a potentially massive audience out here who will watch the race.

Many thanks for getting the ball rolling - there are a lot of us out here who will support the race!


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