Women’s Tour ready to go ahead as planned without title sponsor

Organisers Sweetspot announce the six-stage race is set to close with final stage in Suffolk

The 2020 Women’s Tour will run without a headline sponsor for the first time in its history.

Organisers Sweetspot announced on Thursday the Women’s Tour will once again visit Suffolk. The event’s final stage will see the peloton travel between Haverhill, in the west of the county, finishing on the coast in Felixstowe.

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However, after the deal with OVO Energy ran out, for the first time in its seven year history the race will run without a title sponsor, a factor which is limiting the event’s development.

“We want one and we need one to pay for all the frilly bits,” race director, Mick Bennett told Cycling Weekly, confirming they were in discussions with potential partners. “We’re working very hard hard to cross that bridge and come come to a conclusion as to how it will affect the event.

“It will survive, I haven’t got a crystal ball but in the short term it’s going to survive.”

The previous deal with OVO had been to cover all three of Sweetspot’s events, the Women’s Tour, Tour of Britain and the Tour Series, but Bennett confirmed they were seeking partners for one or all of those.

The Women’s Tour forms part of the UCI’s top tier of racing, the Women’s WorldTour which has lost two stage races for 2020, leaving space for extra days in Britain’s only top tier event. However, Bennett believes that to do so would be running before they could walk.

“We’ve considered it, it’s my wish to make it a longer stage race, but then it’s more sponsorship, you’re eating into the rest of the calendar. You’re trying to move too quickly.

“Do you want live TV? Do you want an eight to ten day stage race to compete with the Giro Rosa? I think the prime element is to get it sponsored by a national or international sponsor to get it on live television before we can start to increase.”

The Women’s Tour is known as one of the best organised races on the women’s calendar, but such an event comes at a cost, with the police bill alone approaching £250,000.

“If the government turned round and said they’d pay the bill for that, like they do in other countries, then we’re laughing, you don’t need to worry about whether we’ve got a title sponsor. That’s the budget that live TV will come out of.”

While every edition of the race has come with comprehensive highlights, as part of the WorldTour organisers are required to provide live television coverage, but that has not been adequately defined, according to Bennett.

“Do they mean live TV, live red button, do they mean live on YouTube, do they mean ‘as live?’ It’s a little bit vague, but the very minimum you will get is ‘as live’ recording of the start and the last half an hour live, that’s what we’re working towards.”

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The opening stages of the race, which begins on June 8, will be announced on the coming weeks. While precise details are yet to be released, the final, Suffolk stage on June 13 will cover about 150km, passing through the Port of Felixstowe en route to the finish line in the nearby town.

After last year’s stage to Blenheim Palace we do know a deal was agreed to take the race to Oxfordshire, so expect a visit to the heart of England. Organisers have previously suggested they would like to include a time trial, something which would create bigger general classification time gaps than in previous years, all but one of which have been decided by bonus seconds.