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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Armitstead aims for top performance
Lizzie Armitstead celebrates her win
There’s a lot of buzz around the upcoming Friends Life Women's Tour of Britain, also known as the Women’s Tour. Organizers, SweetSpot, have successfully put together a world-class race, assembled a talented field, promoted live TV broadcasting and equal prize money compared to the men’s Tour of Britain … all in its inaugural year.
The UCI 2.1 race kicks off on Wednesday, May 7 in Oundle and concludes on Sunday, May 11 in Bury St Edmunds, in east England. SweetSpot created the event specifically for the elite women’s field, following the success of the men’s Tour of Britain, which is held from September 7-14. The message? That women are not second best, according to promoter Guy Elliott.
“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,” he told The Guardian.
The start line will showcase riders like the reigning road and cyclo-cross world champion Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) along with Britain’s own Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans), the current national champion and World Cup series leader. Also on the roster is Emma Pooley (Lotto Belisol Ladies) and team pursuit world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Laura Trott (Wiggle Honda).
“I’ve been pretty vocal in my support for women’s cycling being treated properly and on an equal footing with the men, so obviously I’m very excited about the Women’s Tour. I’m totally behind what the organizers are doing and the ethics behind the race if you like, but as we get closer, being a racer, my focus is simply on the race itself and how we can perform best as a team,” Armitstead said in an interview with the Women’s Tour.
Nearly 100 of the best female road racers in the world are going to put on a show during the five-day event. Other British notables include former double junior road world champion Lucy Garner and team pursuit world champion Katie Archibald, both racing for the British national team, along with Hannah Barnes and Sharon Laws (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), and cyclo-cross specialist Helen Wyman (Matrix Fitness-Vulpine).
The international peloton will also feature Emma Johansson (Orica-GreenEdge), who is the highest ranked in the UCI standings, Giorgia Bronzini and Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda), Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululemon), Lauren Hall (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products), Fabiana Luperini (Estado de Mexico Faren) and Doris Schweizer (Astana BePink).
Each stage will include two intermediate sprints and two Queen of the Mountains, adding to the challenge of the overall event. On Wednesday, May 7, the race will open with a 92.4km road race from Oundle to Northampton and is expected to come down to a bunch sprint in the end. On Thursday, Stage 2 will offer a challenging 118.5km race from Hinckley to Bedford. Friday’s Stage 3 offers a 86.8km race from Felixstowe to Clacton. Saturday’s Stage 4 takes the peloton on a 87.8km race from Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City. And the finale Stage 5, on Sunday, will be a 108.1km race from Harwich to Bury St Edmunds, where the overall winner will be crowned on Angel Hill.