The Women’s Tour, which has its inaugural edition next May, has been granted 2.1 status by the UCI, putting it on a par with races such us Italy’s Giro Rosa. Northamptonshire will host the start of the five-day race, which will run from 7 to 11 May.
Organisers SweetSpot, who have been running the Tour of Britain for the past decade, say that the decision to give the race 2.1 status, the highest available for a women’s stage race, means it will attract the world’s top female riders.
"We are absolutely delighted that the UCI have awarded us 2.1 status for this exciting new event,” commented SweetSpot Director Guy Elliott.
"Our first stage, including the Grand Depart, will be based entirely in Northamptonshire, which is a fantastic county for racing and will the first time that Northamptonshire has hosted a major Tour.
“The stage will be a challenging test for all riders on a beautiful and challenging route of opening day of the race, with plans to pass through many of the county's towns and villages.
"We are particularly pleased about Northamptonshire's plans to use the event to promote women's sport in its widest context to young people,” he added.
Deputy leader for Northamptonshire County Council Councillor Heather Smith commented: "This is fantastic news for Northamptonshire and I am very pleased that we will be hosting the first stage of this prestigious event.
"Not only will The Women's Tour bring significant economic benefits to the county, it is also a real opportunity to promote cycling and women's sport locally.
"We want to use this event to encourage everyone in Northamptonshire, and in particular the county's young people, to get cycling and improve their health and wellbeing.
“This will be a very exciting event for Northamptonshire and will herald the start of a summer of sporting events across the whole county that everyone can look forward to.”
SweetSpot says that more details of Stage 1 of the race as well as the venues for the subsequent four stages will be announced in the months ahead.
Earlier this year, outlining plans for the race, Elliott told road.cc that it was envisaged that the race would be held in the East Midlands and East Anglia, and that discussions to secure TV coverage each day were well advanced.
“We have already been in discussion with TV and we are confident of having extensive coverage,” he explained. “We don’t want to say which station but we believe that will be a game-changer because we will have daily significant TV coverage.”
Besides organising the Tour of Britain, SweetSpot is also the company behind the Pearl Izumi Tour Series and sister event the Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix Series, both of which enjoy TV highlights showcasing the towns and cities they are held in.
Elliot told road.cc that the backdrop to the stages of the Women’s Tour would be an important element of the TV coverage.
“We are planning to take each stage to an old-fashioned county and give each stage its own theme around the county, like Cambridge with the spires and punting on the Cam and so package the race for TV,” he explained.
“Our plan is to get an hour’s TV coverage each day. 20-30 minutes of that might be focusing on the riders and their stories, what goes on behind the scenes, how to get into the sport and maybe 30 minutes on the actual racing.”
And as for the decision to head east, Elliott told us in July: “It’s an area that has not been visited so frequently by the men’s Tour of Britain, but there’s a great appetite for cycling from the local councils.
“For example we get great support from Colchester for the Tour Series; last year the start of the Tour of Britain was in Ipswich.
“We want to make sure that to start with the race is on flattish or undulating courses and in future years we will move towards more hilly region.
“We don’t want the race to be decided over one mountain with someone having five minutes lead,” he added.
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.