British Cycling has stated that it intends to hold the men’s Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour – set to be rebadged as the ‘Tour of Britain Women’ in 2024, despite the future of the races coming under threat after organisers SweetSpot entered liquidation last month.
SweetSpot’s deal with British Cycling to organise the two stage races was cancelled by the British governing body last November amid allegations that the promoter owed around £700,000 in race licence fees.
It was thought that a new promoter would have needed to be found to continue the June and September races. However, British Cycling has indicated that it will take on the organisation of both races going forward in their original calendar slots of June and September. Time is running low to get the women’s race – which was cancelled last year due to a lack of funding – up and running by early June.
“We didn’t when we began this journey, have the aspirations singly to deliver the Tour of Britain and then the Women’s Tour,” British Cycling CEO John Dutton told selected media, including Cycling Weekly, in Manchester on Friday. “But in working through the untenable situation that we found ourselves in, we thought long and hard about bringing everything together as part of an event portfolio.
“There’s still some work to do. The UCI calendar has been published with the Tour of Britain for women in its June date and the Tour of Britain for men in its September date. We’re quite excited about the Tour of Britain for men on that September date, coming before the World Championships in Switzerland, and the ability, hopefully, to get some star names to turn up both internationally and domestically in preparation for the World Championships.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do on the Tour of Britain Women. There may have to be some compromises from what has happened before in terms of duration. But our intention is to deliver something in 2024, which then grows in 2025 and 2026 but at the moment, we are working to the calendar dates that have been published.”
Dutton said that British Cycling are working on delivering an eight-stage race for men, though added that the women’s race will likely be shorter than be six stages previously planned.
No sponsors for the two races or any race routes have yet been finalised, so the organisation finds itself in a “race against the clock” to deliver the two races.
“On the Tour of Britain Women, the race is due to take place in June, we now have a day-by-day plan, and we are in a race against the clock so every day counts,” Dutton said. “We’ve done an immense amount of work, and we do have some of the pieces in place, we need to finish the rest of it and have the level of confidence that we can deliver a safe race, that it gives a great rider experience and also is financially sustainable.
“With the Tour of Britain Men, we obviously have more time. We’ve done an immense amount of work, and it will be an eight-stage race. Obviously, there is more complexity, but we have a level of confidence that we’re able to deliver that and just to be really clear, there are two focuses.
“One is 2024 and making sure we get these away and we protect the races because that’s so important. The bigger opportunity is 2025 onwards, and it is fair to say in terms of our ambition, we already have half an eye on 2025 and onwards in terms of what the races might look like.
“We’re working on an eight-stage race for the men’s race and the dates have been published. I think what we can say, at this point, is that we do not think it will be a six-stage race for the Tour of Britain Women but we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s a high-quality racing experience.”
Dutton continued to say that British Cycling does not want to take a “backwards step” in terms of prize money for the races, though conceded that there would be a lower prize pot should the women’s race be cut in length.
“So that’s not just about the number of stages, it’s about the terrain, the geography, topography, start and finish, and also delivering it economically from a team perspective, we are very minded of that,” he said.
“From a prize money perspective, we haven’t had too many conversations about this but what we will say is we don’t want to take a backward step in terms of quality. But obviously, it would have to be on a proportionate basis, if it was half the duration in terms of the race.”
A future in the WorldTour?
Both races are set to fall under the purview of a new multi-discipline organisation called British Cycling Events, headed up by managing director Jonathan Day, which will include support for disciplines including BMX, mountain bike, and cyclocross.
Dutton said that British Cycling Events will be “moving forward” past the dispute with SweetSpot, saying that ” We can either feel sorry for ourselves or we can get on and do something about it” and adding the battle over the unpaid fees is an ongoing legal matter.
“Of course, we’ve got our in-house legal people who are speaking to the insolvency practitioner and that is what it is,” he said. “That’s in the past and that will be dealt with in the appropriate way. For us, it’s now about moving forward, we’re here as British Cycling Events, a subsidiary of the national governing body, with real ambition and determination to work really hard.
“SweetSpot, Tour of Britain Ltd. and other entities have entered administration, so that is being dealt with by an insolvency practitioner and that is in their hands. So, we will continue to work with them as far as we’re concerned and it’s in the past. We can either feel sorry for ourselves or we can get on and do something about it.
“That will be dealt with in the same way as the numerous creditors. It will all be a matter of public record our accounts are a matter of public record. So that’s how it will be dealt with.”
With the future of both races now seemingly guaranteed – despite the race against the clock to organise the women’s race this year – Day spoke positively about the future of both races, indicating that British Cycling hopes the men’s race will be able to move up to WorldTour level like its women’s counterpart.
“I think it’s something we’d be super interested in, absolutely,” he said “I think we’re expecting to see some reform in terms of the International calendar I think in probably the not-too-distant future.
“So, we’ll be keeping a close eye on that. Then we will obviously be liaising with the UCI and building that relationship up in terms of what that could mean for these events going forward. So, I think we’re really open-minded about it. But if it’s right for the events and right for the sport, and will have the impact, then absolutely.”