Ineos Grenadier's new CEO, John Allert, has said the British team will do all it can to help get the Tour of Britain back on the calendar.
Allert outlined his ambitions for the WorldTour team moving forward in a call this week. He spoke at length about Ineos’ British identity and heritage and explained that the Tour of Britain was still considered an “important race” by the Grenadiers.
The future of the race hangs in the balance after British Cycling retracted the race licence from the former organiser, Sweetspot, last Autumn. This was due to the firm owing the national governing body £700,000 in unpaid race licence fees. SweetSpot has since entered liquidation and further creditors have now emerged.
It’s understood that more detailed plans regarding the race's future will be made public next week by BC.
Allert said on Tuesday that the current situation around the race was unfortunate but explained that Ineos Grenadiers will do all they can to support BC in getting the Tour of Britain back on the calendar in 2024.
“We're obviously very interested stakeholders in terms of, you know, a 'home race'. I think it's very sad… maybe this underpins the potential need for change," he said.
“All I can say is as a team with British heritage you know, we will work with any stakeholders, British Cycling or any commercial stakeholders, to as quickly as possible see a Tour of Britain back on the calendar," he continued.
“I think it's an important race, not just for the UK, but I think some of these national races are huge opportunities for local riders, non WorldTour teams, and for local fans and having a gap on the calendar like that is not good for the sport.”
As well as organising the Tour of Britain, SweetSpot also organised the Women’s Tour. It’s understood that BC is looking at plans for a women’s stage race to replace the SweetSpot equivalent on the calendar too.
"Something needs changing" in British domestic scene
Ineos rider Ben Swift, who rode the Tour of Britain 10 times, told Cycling Weekly at the Tour Down Under that he was saddened by the whole situation surrounding both races.
"It's a massive shame," the two-time British champion said. "We already saw last year when the Women's Tour got stopped. I don't know what exactly was going on there, but I know that even the routes and everything were announced really late last year. They were struggling.
"It's a shame, just the whole situation in Britain, we went through the boom in cycling in the lead up to the Olympics, and it's just a shame to see all the domestic teams disappearing too."
This sentiment was echoed by Owain Doull of EF Education-EasyPost, who has raced the Tour of Britain seven times, for the Great Britain team, then Wiggins, then Ineos Grenadiers.
"I think it's a massive shame to be honest," the Welshman said. "The Tour of Britain has always been one of my fondest and favourite races. It's pretty much the race, which gave me the opportunity to turn professional back in 2015. It's a massive shame because I think from a rider's perspective, it's a race we all love.
"From a fan's perspective, it's always super well supported. The roads are always packed. It's not like we're racing in front of nobody. I don't know what the next steps are with it. Hopefully, the men's Tour of Britain and the Women's Tour can come back."
A British Cycling spokesperson told Cycling Weekly last week: “We 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, and will be in a position to provide further details in the coming weeks.”
"It [racing in Britain] needs to drop off to then rebuild," Swift said. "Something needs changing, right from the very basics of racing. We need more domestic racing, more kid's racing. I remember watching the Tour of Britain as a kid, with all the fans. It's a great race for preparation for the Worlds. Hopefully it'll come around, it'll sort itself out. It's going to be hard."
"I feel for a lot of the British guys who don't have a clear pathway," Doull said. "I think before you were on a British men's conti team or racing in the UK, you kind of had that as an aiming point. Knowing that this is your shop window. That if you were good across those seven or eight days, you have that opportunity to become a professional.
"If a British guy did a good ride at the Tour of Britain, the chances of them getting a professional contract was good, which is also a testament of how high all the professional teams rated the race."
It is not all doom and gloom for British cycling, however, with more British professionals in the WorldTour peloton than ever before - 33 men and 22 women - but riders are forced to go abroad for experience, especially for second-tier male teams.
"There's so many young British pros around," Swift explained. "We've got a list with our British guys on. When I was younger there were about six of us on the elite. Now we have 35/40 guys in this group now, which is incredible. The level in domestic racing is so much higher than they used to be, there's just nowhere for them to show it. The Tour of Britain was great for that. It's not often you race on home roads, I guess it's just really the nationals now."
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