Organisers of the Halfords Tour Series have confirmed to road.cc that this year’s event will comprise eight rounds instead of the planned ten, with large-scale road works forcing Chester to join Kettering in pulling out this year, although there are hopes that both venues will be back for 2012. Meanwhile, the rounds in Peterborough, Stoke, Oldham and Woking will all be accompanied by races in the new Johnson Health Tech Women's Grand Prix Series.
Following our story yesterday story that Kettering had been forced to abandon plans to host a round of the series this year due to lack of sponsorship, a spokesman for SweetSpot, organisers of the Halfords Tour Series and the Tour of Britain, told road.cc that it was “disappointing news” that the Northamptonshire town, which hosted a round last year, wouldn’t feature in this year’s competition.
However, he added that two new venues had been brought on board – Aberystwyth, which will become the first town in Wales to host the event – and Oldham, enabling fans in Greater Manchester to experience the racing first hand. Colchester in Essex also returns, having been involved in 2009’s inaugural series but stepping down last year as it focused instead on hosting a stage finish of the Tour of Britain.
“We have worked very closely with Kettering Borough Council over the winter, but unforutunately it wasn't to be for 2011 for the reasons that Councillor Hakewill mentions, plus some roadworks in Kettering which our technical team believe would have caused disruption,” explained SweetSpot. “Unfortunately road works is also the reason that Chester will be taking a year away from the Series in 2011, as a large section of the circuit is currently uncovered for major gas main works.
“As Kettering say, we are still working with them for 2012, and that is one of the crucial aspects of The Halfords Tour Series, that to a certain extent there is a slight turn over of venues to allow the Series to visit other parts of the UK. Because of the problems with Kettering and Chester, The Halfords Tour Series will be just eight rounds this year, but we believe they are eight exciting and varied circuits, which will provide great racing on the night and for the following evening's ITV4 highlights programme. In fact you could argue that because of this the racing will be even closer!
The series is expected to be back to ten races in 2012 and besides the potential return of Kettering or Chester, a number of other towns and cities throughout the UK are also said to be interested in hosting the evening criterium series.
“There are other venues around the UK we are talking to, both new and old to the Series with a view to next year, and certainly several new venues will be attending rounds of this year's Halfords Tour Series to experience the action first hand, hopefully ahead of hosting an event in 2012, obviously just weeks before the Olympic Games,” adds Sweetspot. “It's obviously nice to extend the Series to areas we have not yet visited (as we are doing with Wales this year), so Scotland is a priority for us.”
As we highlighted yesterday, Kettering Council said that last year’s race had brought £400,000 to the local economy and that 94% of visitors surveyed said that they “had a very enjoyable time” at the race, while 67% said that it had “inspired them to ride a bike more.”
SweetSpot says that these figures demonstrate “just how popular the event was locally and that, crucially, it did inspire people to get on their bikes. The Halfords Tour Series is about much more than a professional race, wherever we are in the UK we hope to encourage people to get cycling, whether for fun, to commute, for health reasons or maybe even as a sport. Comments like those from Kettering would certainly seem to suggest that we are achieving in those aims.”
Although the official press release isn’t out yet, here is what we understand to be the dates and venues for this year’s Halfords Tour Series:
Round One Tuesday 24th May Durham
Round Two Thursday 26th May Aberystwyth
Round Three Tuesday 31st May Peterborough
Round Four Thursday 2nd June Colchester
Round Five Tuesday 7th June Stoke-on-Trent
Round Six Thursday 9th June Oldham
Round Seven Tuesday 14th June Woking
Round Eight Thursday 16th June Canary Wharf
Peterborough, Stoke, Oldham and Woking meanwhile will all host rounds of the new Johnson Health Tech Women's Grand Prix Series, with organisers looking to boost the profile of women’s cycling, and it is hoped that the competition will grow in 2012 in line with the men’s events.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.