Tour of Britain organisers Sweetspot have confirmed they are to launch a women’s edition of the race, with the first edition likely to take place in May next year. The event, which will be covered on terrestrial TV, will run to five days and offer a prize fund equal to the men’s equivalent.
“We want to create an event that you would associate with Sweetspot: with all of the razzmatazz, all of the town centre finishes, National Escort Group, closed roads, motorcycles, decent prize list, TV coverage,” said Sweetspot’s Guy Elliott, who is overseeing the new race.
“I think Great Britain will be the undisputed number one cycling nation in the world. But if we’re going to match the performance of female athletes, we need to be doing something about organisation as well. Our female athletes deserve more from us.”
Elliott, who is overseeing the new race, told The Guardian it will be “the only cycling event in the world where women are not second best”, citing both moral and health reasons for establishing a women’s national tour that has parity with the men’s. “The goal is to wrap a social agenda for change in health and social terms around a sports event, to send a strong message to women that they don’t have to be second best. It’s a game changer. It cannot carry on that we discriminate against women in sport from the age of 15.”
Elliott revealed he is searching for sponsors for the new race, but has had no shortage of interest when it comes to hosting stages. “We’re in the embarrassing position where more than five councils want it,” he said, going on to admit that the interest could lead to a rapid extension of the race beyond its initial five-day format.
The Tour of Britain will take place in eastern and south-east England. “We’ve had the Tour of Britain and the Tour Series in the east. It’s nice terrain and it’s close to the Continent,” said Elliott, who is clearly determined to attract the leading women’s teams across the English Channel.
He added the stages will be themed around “health, social issues, or tourism”. The day in Hertfordshire, for example, will be themed as the Laura Trott stage, in tribute to the area’s double Olympic gold medallist who won the RideLondon Grand Prix at the weekend in her Wiggle-Honda team colours.
“The teams are already saying, ‘We want to come. The UK is a massive market and you have the best riders in the world.’”