Tour de France organisers ASO interested in taking over the Tour of Britain

British Cycling said in December it was inviting bids for 2014 onwards; RCS Sport also eyeing race?

by Simon_MacMichael   March 23, 2013  

Tour of Britain 2011: Overall champ Lars Boom tracked by points jersey winner Geraint Thomas © Simon MacMichael.jpg

Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which runs races including the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix, is eyeing up running the Tour of Britain which British Cycling, owner of the event, has put out to tender for 2014 onwards. Since 2004, when the race was revived after an absence of four years, it has been organised by Surrey-based SweetSpot.

Speaking to the BBC at an event in Leeds yesterday hosted by Welcome To Yorkshire, which led the successful bid to host next year’s Grand Départ of the Tour de France, ASO president Jean-Etienne Amaury said: “It's something we're looking into right now but I can't say too much about it.

"But if we can make it into something even more compelling for TV and spectators then we'd go for it."

He added: “In recent years we have helped the Tour of California, the Tour of Beijing and races in the Middle East, so we've been fostering the globalisation of cycling."

British Cycling announced in December that it was inviting tenders to organise the race from 2014 onwards, and road.cc understands that bids are due to be submitted very shortly, with the governing body reportedly wanting to make its decision by the time the 2013 edition gets under way.

The fact that ASO has confirmed its interest at this stage therefore almost certainly means that it will be submitting a formal bid, if it has not already done so.

At the time, British Cycling president Brian Cookson said: "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.”

That a company of ASO’s stature – as well as Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport, also reported by the BBC to be considering a bid – should be interested at all in the Tour of Britain highlights the growing stature of the race in the decade since SweetSpot revived it in 2004.

Year on year, the parcours has become more demanding, media coverage has increased, and the quality of the field has risen, all helped of course by British riders’ growing success in the sport, with last year’s race featuring Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and world champion Mark Cavendish, who on the last stage secured his final victory in the rainbow jersey.

SweetSpot unveiled the route of this September’s race on Thursday evening in front of a packed audience at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden.

Those present included NetApp Endura rider Russ Downing, former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell, and – getting a big cheer when he was presented – Wouter Sybrandy, the IG-Sigma Sport rider who has now recovered from the horrific injuries he sustained in a crash during last year’s race.

The talk afterwards was of a route billed as the toughest yet, but it wasn't far from the thoughts of many of those present, however, that the tenth edition organised by SweetSpot could mark its last involvement in the race.  Before 2004, the previous edition, under the name The PruTour, had been in 1999.

When British Cycling revealed it was putting the event out to tender, SweetSpot expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the decision, outlining how it had put in place a “sustainable model to insulate the event from the vagaries of the sponsorship marketplace.”

It added that the approach had “been vindicated by the consistent growth and increased profile of the event, despite having to endure one of the worst recessions in living memory.”

SweetSpot, which also organises the Tour Series and the RideLondon Olympic legacy event that will debut this August, confirmed at the time that it would be participating in the tender process.

On Thursday, it also announced plans to launch a five-day women's stage race attracting top British and overseas riders, with the inaugural edition hopefully taking place next year.