The futures of Britain’s two premier stage races, the Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour have been plunged into further doubt after long-term organiser and promoter SweetSpot entered liquidation as it faces legal claims totalling almost £1 million.
In reports from Cycling Weekly and The Guardian, SweetSpot CEO Hugh Roberts confirmed the company had appointed KRE corporate recovery to deal with the company’s creditors after entering “voluntary liquidation.”
“Liquidation started to become a possibility back in July. Because we were already under a lot of pressure financially with the Tour of Britain,” Roberts told The Guardian. “It’s the end of an era. It’s 20 years of hard work that have come to this.
“We have been fighting so many headwinds for the last three or four years, that it’s come to the point where we really can’t carry on in the current climate and the current business environment that we find ourselves in.”
Governing body British Cycling withdrew its previous deal with SweetSpot in November after allegations were made that the company owed around £750,000 in race licence rights fees.
Cycling Weekly also revealed that the Isle of Wight council was considering potential legal action to reclaim up to £350,000 from SweetSpot after paying to host the final stages of the 2022 Tour of Britain which were cancelled due to the death of the Queen.
SweetSpot has run the Tour of Britain since its modern 2004 revival, but British Cycling has always held the rights to the race. They were due to continue their partnership until 2029 after a new agreement was reached in 2019, but it now lies with the governing body to find a new organiser.
The race ran without a title sponsor in 2023 and faced criticism for providing a repetitive parcours of sprint stages without exploring much of the UK’s varied topography.
The racing scene in Britain has taken multiple hits in recent years and SweetSpot’s other headline event, the Women’s Tour, now looks unlikely to return to the women’s WorldTour calendar after it was cancelled in 2023 following a failure to crowdfund enough money to cover the void left from losing sponsor. The popular city-centre racing event, the Tour Series was also cancelled in 2023 due to funding issues.
Roberts told the Guardian that “the prognosis looks bleak” for the women’s race after the liquidation announcement as the race had no safety net from the governing body given that SweetSpot owns the rights to the event.
If both events fail to survive in 2024 and beyond, Britain will only run two UCI-sanctioned races, the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic (1.2) and the Ride London Classique. The latter, a three-day stage race based in Essex and the capital city, would be the only WorldTour race in the UK for a second year running.
British Cycling released an original statement in November stating that it remained committed to providing a men’s race with no mention of the Women’s Tour, but in an updated statement to Cycling Weekly added that they “are making every possible effort to ensure that the Tour of Britain and a UCI Women’s World Tour stage race take place in 2024 and beyond.”
Roberts stated that he felt SweetSpot could’ve been given more time to try and resolve the issues from the governing body, despite acknowledging the company’s responsibility in accumulating the debt.
“British Cycling wanted to still receive the full licence fee that they felt they were due in 2022,” he said. “Despite the Queen dying in the middle of the race and all our other partners showing a little bit of financial sympathy to us, they were insisting that the fee they felt they were owed should be paid in full.
“British Cycling say they have a plan [for the Tour of Britain] but I don’t know what it is. There was no room to negotiate. We were not even given the grounds to appeal.”