The 2023 Women’s Tour will not go ahead after organiser Sweetspot was unable to find sufficient sponsorship to make the race financially viable.
The ninth edition of the Women’s Tour was slated to start in Stratford-upon-Avon on 11 June but the race organiser has been unable to find a name sponsor to make the event viable. In the long term the race may to struggle to return unless such backing can be secured.
Sweetspot, which created the Women’sTour in 2014 and have run it ever since, recently announced the race was suffering financial difficulties, but this morning confirmed the 2023 will not take place after a search for financial backing was unsuccessful.
While significant funding comes from those local authorities hosting stages, the race is only viable with extra funding.
With the search for a name sponsor ongoing, Škoda exercised a break in its contract to provide race vehicles for both he Women's Tour and Sweetspot's men's race The Tour of Britain, leaving a shortfall for cars for the Women's Tour alone thought to be be in excess of £50,000 . Three of the four race classification leaders’ jersey also remain unsponsored, with financial uncertainty gripping the wider economy.
In its announcement this morning Sweetspot said: "Owing to a combination of increased running costs (approximately 20% higher in comparison to the 2022 race) and a reduced level of commercial support, it has proved impossible to deliver the event that was proposed for June."
It said the decision was "incredibly disappointing" for the towns that were set to host this year's race and that it hoped to be able to bring a race to those places in the future.
Earlier this month Sweetspot launched a crowdfunding scheme with the aim of at least contributing £100,000 towards the total £500,000 deficit. However, on Thursday evening the total pledged was little over £18,000, with further donations apparently suspended, and with such huge holes in the finances and no prospect of extra money being found, it has become impossible for Sweetspot to continue with the race.
Sweetspot thanked the fans that donated to that campaign for "unwavering loyalty" and said the donations would now be refunded through GoFundMe's usual process.
The Women’s Tour set new standards when launched it in May 2014. Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) was dominant in that opening year, winning three of the five stages, and the event has always attracted some of the biggest names in the sport.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Demi Vollering (SDWorx), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma) have all taken the general classification, though home favourite Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) in the only woman to have won it twice (2016, 2019).
Over the years the Women’s Tour has spread its wings with decisive and exciting stages in the Peak District and Wales, but has often found it difficult to escape its origins in the flat East of England. This has made bunch sprints the norm, though decisive bonus seconds from intermediate sprints have often made for exciting racing.
One of the race’s key innovations when it was launched was comprehensive highlights on free-to-air TV, one of the first races to do so. However, in 2021 Sweetspot fell foul of UCI regulations, a financial shortfall meaning they were unable to provide the live coverage required of all UCI Women’s WorldTour events. Though the race was covered live last year, Cycling Weekly understands host broadcaster, ITV were unwilling to stump up any cash for the privilege of showing the race.
The effect of the loss of the Women’s Tour is as yet unknown, it will certainly remove an opportunity to inspire girls and young women, but it may also impact the UK’s only other Women’s World Tour race, the Ford Ride London Classique. Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU teams have been required to present carnets for every piece of equipment they bring into the country and return to Europe. These are expensive and teams may decide the cost is not worth it for only three instead of the originally planned nine top tier race days.
The Women's Tour is not the only top level event to disappear since the WorldTour calendar was announced. In January two one day races in Sweden were cancelled, organisers citing increasing financial commitments.
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