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Orica – AIS, Boels Dolmans, Specialized Lululemon & Wiggle Honda sign up for UK's first UCI elite women's stage race...

The inaugural Women’s Tour looks set to have a stellar start list as organisers announced today that 11 of the top 14 professional women’s teams will line up for the  first stage in Oundle on Wednesday May 7.

Joining world number one Marianne Vos and her Rabo Liv team will be the likes of Orica – AIS, Boels Dolmans, Specialized Lululemon and the Wiggle Honda team of British Olympians Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Dani King.

Alongside them will be the national side of the world’s number one ranked nation, the Netherlands, plus a Great Britain national team led by Leicestershire’s Lucy Garner.

British domestic team Matrix Fitness–Vulpine also earn an invite, while UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling’s participation will mean Hannah Barnes racing in her home county of Northamptonshire.

The Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies team will also travel from the USA to race in The Women’s Tour, with the final two teams for the 16-team, 96-rider field to be announced in due course.

Organised by SweetSpot Group, which also promotes the Tour of Britain, the Women’s Tour is the first ever UCI level stage race for women to take place in the UK.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring such a world-class field of teams to ride in the first ever Women’s Tour,” said Guy Elliott of SweetSpot.

“The race has attracted a wonderful field of elite riders from all over the world, which will be one of the strongest fields ever assembled for an elite women’s international race, and a route which will feature some of the most beautiful roads, villages, towns and countryside in Great Britain.”

The current line-up includes teams from eight different nations and organisers are confident teams will send their best riders 5to make up a high-quality field.

Teams announced so far for The Women’s Tour are:

Astana Bepink Women’s Team (Italy)
Boels Dolmans Cycling Team (Netherlands)
Estado de Mexico Faren (Mexico)
Great Britain national team
Hitec Products (Norway)
Lotto Belisol Ladies (Belgium)
Matrix Fitness – Vulpine (Great Britain)
Netherlands national team
Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies (USA)
Orica – AIS (Australia)
Rabo Liv Women’s Cycling Team (Netherlands)
Specialized – Lululemon (USA)
UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team (USA)
Wiggle Honda (Great Britain)

The Women’s Tour will take place over five stages between Wednesday May 7 and Sunday May 11, beginning in Northamptonshire with an opening stage from Oundle to Northampton.

Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire will all host subsequent stages in the event, before the final stage finish in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, with highlights of every stage shown on ITV4.

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.