The Women's Tour continues to improve its reputation as a popular race on the Women's WorldTour, particularly after confirming it secured the sponsorship needed to provide the required live coverage of all six stages. The live coverage adds to the event's existing marketing and organisational strategy that will allow fans to watch the action worldwide, and in hopes to help the event secure a much-needed title sponsor.
This year, it is the second top-tier race held in the UK after RideLondon's expanded three-day race. The Women's Tour promises a range of varied routes peaking at Black Mountain for what has been tipped as the toughest summit finish in the history of the Women's Tour.
Providing 45 minutes of live broadcasting is a requirement to be part of the top-tier series as of 2020. The Women's Tour began in 2014 and has been part of the Women's WorldTour since its inception in 2016, but it was cancelled in 2020 and postponed until October 2021. Last year, live coverage plans fell through due to the impacts of "commercial realities" after two years of being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now in its eighth edition, this will be the first-ever year that fans will be able to watch the race live as organisers plan to show at least 90 minutes of coverage on Eurosport Player and GCN+ in addition to the stage highlights each evening on ITV4 in the UK.
However, the event is still running on limited resources without a title financial backer despite the significant step forward in providing live broadcasting.
Prize money parity has to wait
In previous years, organisers were praised for offering prize money parity between the Women's Tour and the Tour of Britain. However, they have had to cut back on the women's prize purse as of last year, and again this year as they search for a title sponsor.
SweetSpot offered equal prize money of €90,000 between its two races in 2018 and 2019 when the race was under the title sponsorship of OVO, with the energy company putting in the additional prize funds. At that time, the general classification winner earned €14,460.
Although SweetSpot aimed to restore parity in financial prize money across both races in 2022, this year, the women's peloton will be racing for a total prize purse of €37,955, with the winner taking home just €2,750.
Organisers previously stated that they were seeking a minimum of £75,000 to help cover the costs of live broadcasting, which is a requirement to be part of the Women's WorldTour. The broadcast has been made possible by self-catering accommodation provider cottages.com – part of Awaze – event stakeholders and Eurosport/GCN.
Still, with continued resource constraints, the hunt for a title sponsor remains their primary objective for future editions.
"Ultimately it’s a case of we can’t do everything at the moment," a representative of the event wrote to Cyclingnews.
"We definitely had two big aims from last year's race, which was to secure live coverage and to increase the prize fund. Unfortunately, the latter does remain as it was in October 2021. Our first priority was investing in the broadcast coverage that is a UCI requirement and will ultimately benefit everyone in the race, and further investment at the moment is simply not possible.
"Like everyone we are still feeling (possibly reeling!) from the effects of COVID and the cancellation of our 2020 race and delay of the 2021 event by five months, and we do not have a title sponsor for this year's race. It will be the first of the eight editions to not have a title sponsor.
"Finding a title sponsor for the Women's Tour is our number one priority and something that we continue to work hard to find for future editions, as it would allow us to increase the prize fund, expand the field, increase the live broadcast, and generally reach and engage many more people. We hope that this year's race, particularly now it has live coverage on Eurosport and GCN, will showcase the event to potential sponsors."
In Vollering's absence, the race is wide open
The Women's Tour promises a battle among the best riders and teams in the world across six days of racing, and now that live pictures will be captured and shown to viewers worldwide, fans can tune in to watch the race play out daily.
Race director Mick Bennett highlighted stage 3 from Tewkesbury to Gloucester, stage 4 from Wrexham to Welshpool and then stage 5 from Pembrey Country Park to Black Mountain as the most decisive days of the event where we can expect to see the top climbers of the race in action.
"Certainly we feel this year's route will demand a worthy winner and is certainly the toughest edition of the Women's Tour that we have delivered to date. Attention is naturally drawn to stage five and our finish atop Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire, with its seven-kilometre, rarely relenting climb. But the two days before in Gloucestershire's Forest of Dean and the heart of mid-Wales (between Wrexham and Welshpool) will both also shape the GC," Bennett said.
Cyclingnews has published the full route details along with profiles and maps.
Defending champion Demi Vollering will not be racing this year, but SD Worx has a powerful team with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Marlen Reusser.
The race will see former champions Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) and Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma) on the start line. Niewiadoma will be a favourite for the general classification with help from Elise Chabbey and Mikayla Harvey on the hilly stages. On the other hand, Labecki will likely target stage wins as Anna Henderson could lay claim to being the team's overall contender after solid performances at RideLondon.
Grace Brown will line up for FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope as one of the favourites to watch for breakaways and the overall GC across the punchy terrain.
After winning all three stages and the overall title at RideLondon, Lorena Wiebes is a major contender for the flatter stages at the Women's Tour. At the same time, Team DSM will carry firm hopes for British Champion Pfeiffer Georgi in the overall GC.
Trek-Segafredo will back Elisa Longo Borghini for the overall title but the team line up with arguably to strongest and most versatile roster on paper, with time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Eleanor Backstedt, Lauretta Hanson and Chloe Hosking.
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