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Inaugural Women's Tour de Suisse in jeopardy for June

Tour de Suisse fans
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

An inaugural Women's Tour de Suisse is slated to take place June 5-6, 2021 as a two-day UCI 2.1 event, which would be the opening act for the men’s Tour de Suisse. However the organisers have admitted that plans may come to a grinding halt if funds are not secured in the coming weeks.

While event organisers have secured the opening weekend for the race, and have already mentioned expansion of race days for women, full funding has not been solidified and doubts swirl as to whether the 2021 event can be held at all.

Swiss Cycling is the driving force behind the new event to bring equality in the sport to women and men. The governing body launched the #fastandfemaleSUI project to achieve advances in athlete development and amateur events and professional events, such as the Women’s Tour de Suisse. 

"We have to decide soon whether to hold the Tour de Suisse Women or cancel, and we want to hold it," said Patrick Hunger, co-president of Swiss Cycling and president of the Tour de Suisse.

Financing has become the issue, from federal funding to apparent shortfalls from sponsorships and donations.

“For our association, gender equivalence is of the highest relevance. We founded the funding project #fastandfemaleSUI a year and a half ago because we have a lot of untapped potential in women's cycling, because we want to offer our young cyclists something - because we have to do justice to social realities,” said Thomas Peter, CEO of Swiss Cycling on the event web site.

The project has been largely financed with federal funds, beginning with plans to host the 2020 UCI Road World Championships. The 2020 Road Worlds were to have been held in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland last September, but were cancelled a month out due to safety measures across the country for COVID-19 coronavirus. The UCI was able to confirm on short notice a reduced Road Worlds to be held in Imola, Italy, with road races and times trials limited to Elite men and Elite women.

In a press release from organisers, it was noted that the federal funds earmarked and not used for Road Worlds would be used for the women’s race, but that revenue “now is still in danger.”

“The reason is the fact that it is still unclear when and how many of the funds mentioned will flow back.  Because the repayment process is protracted, National Councilors Diana Gutjahr and Aline Trede have submitted the proposal, according to which the federal government should assume a deficit guarantee for the first Tour de Suisse Women and thus prevent early cancellation.”

A crowdfunding campaign has been started by Swiss Cycling with its #fastandfemaleSUI project. A number of members of the Swiss National Team have contributed to posts for fans to make donations, including Marlen Reusser (Alé BTC Ljubljana Cipollini), 2019 time trial and road national champion, and Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), the 2020 ITT titlist and road runner-up.

"The idea is to have two stages in 2021 and one of the biggest stage-races for women in the future! How cool is that?!" was the post made on Instagram by Reusser. 

On her Instagram account, Chabbey posted: "I am helping to ensure that the Tour de Suisse Women can take place this year. It is time that our national loop is now offered to both men and women."

No specifics were provided on a deadline related to the deficit guarantee with federal funding, or how much money was needed from donations to proceed with the two-day event this June.

The men’s 2020 Tour de Suisse, scheduled for June 7-14, was cancelled, as Switzerland was one of the countries hit hard in the summer by the pandemic. The route for the 2021 edition was announced in early March, revealing 1,013 kilometres of racing with 17,844 metres of altitude gain over the eight stages. The overall start in Fraunefeld is planned as the location where the women’s race would begin.