British Cycling has announced that it has put the organisation of the country’s biggest bike race, the Tour of Britain, out to tender for the 2014 season onwards. Since the race was revived in 2004, it has been organised by SweetSpot, who have expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the governing body’s decision.
The tender process, which will be run by The Sports Consultancy, will officially open in next month, although British Cycling is inviting expressions of interest now, and given the way the profile of professional cycling has grown in Great Britain over the past decade, there is likely to be strong competition to organise the race from 2014 onwards. Unless their tender is successful, next year's edition will be the last one organised by SweetSpot.
The event has had a chequered history, and the past couple of decades have twice seen gaps of several years in which the race disappeared altogether after sponsors pulled out until SweetSpot revived it in 2004, aiming from the outset to put it on a firmer footing.
It's the very stability that SweetSpot has given to the race, combined with the success of British cyclists, that makes the event an attractive proposition not only to other companies that might want to take on the organisation, but also to potential sponsors.
Speaking about the decision to put the race out to tender, British Cycling president Brian Cookson commented: “Against the backdrop of our continued success over recent years and the amazing success this summer with our first Tour de France winner and 16 gold medals at London 2012, it’s important that we take a fresh look at how the Tour of Britain can deliver continued growth and profile for the sport.
“SweetSpot has nurtured and developed the event over recent years but the time is now right to assess all options. Most crucially, we want to assure our current and future members and all cycling fans that we will have their interests at heart throughout this process and we look forward to further developing an event that reflects the current status of our sport in this country.”
British Cycling’s existing contract with SweetSpot will continue throughout next year, including the delivery of the event in September.
SweetSpot, which also organises the Tour Series city centre criterium races and will also be putting on the RideLondon Olympic Legacy event which debuts next August, appears to have been caught unawares by British Cycling’s announcement and this morning issued a statement that reads:
SweetSpot Group would like to express their surprise and disappointment at the decision by British Cycling to seek expressions of interest to tender for the right to organise The Tour of Britain from 2014 onwards.
SweetSpot fully intend to participate in this process, and retain the right to organise and promote Britain’s biggest professional road race from 2014 onwards, especially given the continued growth and unparalleled success of the event under their ten-year stewardship.
In order to protect the interests of cycling fans across the UK, SweetSpot initiated the revival of The Tour in 2004 and they based their plans on a sustainable model to insulate the event from the vagaries of the sponsorship marketplace. This action has been vindicated by the consistent growth and increased profile of the event, despite having to endure one of the worst recessions in living memory.
The team at SweetSpot have created unrivaled relationships with stakeholders around the country, including the police, highway authorities and the regions, counties, cities and towns into which The Tour of Britain has been invited since 2004, taking the race to millions of spectators around the UK. SweetSpot will continue to protect the interests of these stakeholders many of whom can also take much of the credit for the revival of what has become an iconic event.
These relationships have spawned other events, such as The Tour Series, which form the current backbone of the UK domestic cycling calendar. Furthermore SweetSpot have recently been appointed, jointly with The London Marathon Ltd, the delivery partner of the Olympic legacy cycling event, RideLondon, from 2013 onwards.
Not only have new sponsors been introduced to the sport in Britain, but media coverage in all forms has been stimulated, including live daily television coverage on a UK and global platform.
By guaranteeing the inclusion of British teams, The Tour has been a catalyst for the development of cycling in this country over the past decade.
The SweetSpot team would like to state its continued commitment, investment and passion for organising and promoting national and international cycling events, and look forward to announcing details of the 2013 Tour of Britain and Tour Series early in the New Year.
Tracing its origins back to the Victory Race in 1945, the name Tour of Britain was first used in 1951. For more than three decades, it was known as the Milk Race, originally an amateur event but evolving into a pro-am event in the mid-1980s, the period in which a pro only event, the Kellogg’s Tour, was also developed.
The final Milk Race took place in 1993, while the last edition of the Kellogg’s Tour came the following year. The reins were briefly picked up by the PruTour in 1998 and 1999, but as had happened with the Kellogg’s Tour, sponsorship ended partly as a result of safety-related issues.
Revived by SweetSpot in 2004 with a model aimed at making the race less dependent on the whims of sponsors, the success of the event has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations over the past decade.
It attracts some of the world’s biggest teams as well as star riders – in the past two editions, Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish have both won stages in the rainbow jersey of world champion – as well as ensuring that British teams and domestic talent also have a strong representation.
This year, the event saw its first British winner in its current incarnation when Jon Tiernan-Locke of Endura Racing, who has signed for Team Sky for 2013, clinched the overall win.
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.