Women’s Tour postponed due to uncertainty around the pandemic

Organiser Sweetspot is confident the race can happen and has applied for the six-day race to be held in October

The race organiser of the Women’s Tour has announced the 2021 edition will be postponed from its original June dates. The six-day event was slated to begin in Oxfordshire on June 7, but organiser Sweetspot has decided to postpone the event in order to reduce the complexities of holding a Covid safe event.

Sweetspot, in conjunction with British Cycling, has applied to the UCI for a new date and is hoping it can take place between October 4-9, a month after another of its events, the Tour of Britain. They were recently forced to postpone their Tour Series of criteriums.

“We are obviously disappointed to be postponing the Women’s Tour for June but hope that by aiming to stage the race in October we can give the teams and public something to look forward to at the tail end of the summer,” said race birector Mick Bennett in a press release.

Since its inception in 2014 the Women’s Tour has become one of the leading women’s races on the calendar, and is highly regarded for its organisation, spectacle and sporting challenge. However, with the ongoing pandemic causing uncertainty in every aspect of life, let alone sport, the decision to reschedule was perhaps inevitable. 

“There are several reasons [for the postponement,” Sweetspot’s chairman Hugh Roberts told Cycling Weekly. “The most important is our relationships with stake holders, those being the various venues around the country with whom we work so closely.

“They are being drawn in all sorts of different directions trying to cope with the situation and are nervous about being seen to be putting an event on that, as it stands right now, goes against the guidance which is the received wisdom.

“Even then we need to spend at least four months preparing for the event to make sure they get the crowds they need to justify being involved in the first place. It’s far better to make the decision now and move to when we could reliably put the event on in October, then continue to have that sword of Damocles hanging over us.”

Though no one can know where the fight against Covid-19 will be in October, Roberts is confident the race can go ahead in it’s rescheduled slot: “If I was a betting man I would say that it is 75/25 in favour of it happening.

“Let’s hope the government and the sports authorities treat the races as a celebration of the fact we are back to normal,” adding he would be interested in ideas of how the races can celebrate health and key workers who have worked so hard.

The 2021 women’s calendar has already been hit by cancellations, with the usual Australian races going the same way as their men’s equivalents, and there has been no European racing yet after two Spanish races were cancelled.

However, the traditional Classics opener at Omloop Het Nieuwsbald is set to go ahead on February 27, though Omloop Het van Hageland, normally run the following day will not take place. 

Dutch one-dayer Ronde van Drenthe would normally happen in March but has requested an alternative date in late October. New Spanish Women’s WorldTour stage race Itzulia is also seeking another date after postponing last month, and with few available dates in summer all three could come together to make an intense end to the year.

“It makes October a little more interesting,” Canyon-SRAM team manager Ronnny Lauke told CW. “At the moment you have two race days at the beginning of October and then Chrono des Nations in the middle and Drenthe at the very end so having a stage race in October is actually a good thing.”

The uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused teams to reassess how they operate, with travel causing a particular headache for Lauke.

“In a normal season I sometimes book with low cost carriers in January for [races in] July, August and September because the air fares are so low at that time. This is not possible, now I book a week in advance maximum, probably later because you have zero planning security.

“The Women’s Tour is one of the highlights of the women’s calendar so it’s a pity but as long as there’s a chance it will happen in 2021 this is a great sign.”