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British event enters second-highest echelon of stage races

 

The Tour of Britain — Britain’s biggest annual stage race — has had its rating upgraded by the UCI to 2.HC, the second-highest grade after the WorldTour. That sits the Tour of Britain alongside the Tour de Langkawi, Tour of California and long-established European races such as the Critérium International, Four Days of Dunkirk and Tour of Austria.

Commenting on the news, SweetSpot race director, Mick Bennett, said: “We are delighted by today’s announcement, which comes as a culmination of ten year’s hard work by the SweetSpot team.

“The award of 2.HC status is another step forward for The Tour of Britain, and we look forward to this September’s edition of the race being the best yet.

“The upgrade is also a reward for the many hundreds of thousands ofspectators who have lined the route and cheered on the race over the past decade.”

British Cycling’s cycle sport and membership director Jonny Clay said:

“We’re delighted that The Tour of Britain has attained a place alongside some of the most historic races on the global cycling calendar.

“Credit must be given to SweetSpot for their stewardship of the race to date and we look forward to working with them over the next five years to continue the growth of the event as both a monument of the sport and as a British sporting success.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of the status of the sport in Britain and of the work that British Cycling has done to put Great Britain amongst the top cycling nations in the world.”

The Tour of Britain has grown in status over the last few years, despite a shaky start in the early 2000s when the race was troubled by issues closing roads and securing high-quality police assistance.

However, the race has attracted increasingly high-quality fields in the last few years and was won last year by Sir Bradley Wiggins.

The UCI classifies road stage races on a four-category scale from the lowest, 2.2, through 2.1, 2.HC and WorldTour. As you move up the scale, organisers are obliged to provide greater prize money and the race and its stages attract more UCI points. All of that makes the event more attractive to top riders.

When the 2014 race calendar was announced last year, SweetSpot expressed disappointment and mystification that it had not been granted 2.HC status despite a request to put it on equal footing with the Tours of Turkey, Austria and Luxembourg.

When the race calendar was being finalised, incumbent UCI president Pat McQuaid was engaged in an increasingly desperate fight to retain cycling’s top job, a fight he eventually lost to then British Cycling president Brian Cookson.

Further details of the 2014 Tour of Britain, which runs from September 7 to 14, will be announced at the race’s national Launch in the Spring.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.