Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

"It's at the limit now": Tour of Britain organiser highlights "enormous" costs involved, responds to critics who called route "dull"

Mick Bennett says it is "definitely" the hardest it has ever been to put the race on, with funding concerns, local authority issues, huge costs, Brexit and Covid all contributing...

Tour of Britain organiser Mick Bennett has responded to the discussion and debate around the route that met the opening days of this year's event, addressing the critics by pointing out the huge organisational, logistical and financial stress that goes into just getting a race on at all.

With Jumbo-Visma's Olav Kooij winning the opening four sprints — and five of the first six stages being decided by bunch finishes, the only exception being Wout van Aert's final kilometre attack after another flat and uneventful day on stage five — there was plenty of noise on social media about the perceived lack of entertainment in this year's route.

However, Bennett responded by pointing out it is "definitely" as hard as it has ever been to organise a bike race in the United Kingdom, pointing out that rising costs, uncertain funding, local authority disinterest, policing requirements, Brexit and Covid have all created something of a perfect storm that has left the racing scene "at the limit".

Rasmus Tiller wins stage seven, 2023 Tour of Britain (Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

[Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com]

The Tour of Britain is organised by SweetSpot, whose PR director Peter Hodges earlier this year told road.cc how inflationary pressures have been a crucial issue, his colleague Bennett now telling the BBC that the cost of running the race is around £3 million per year.

"It frightens the death out of me," Bennett said after the latest edition, won by Wout van Aert for the second time. "The costs are just enormous. I've been doing this since 1983… the cost of living has gone up, local governments are being squeezed; if they have to choose between closing a library or a youth club, they're not going to do that [pay for a bike race]."

Responding to the criticism about the route of this year's race, Bennett told Cycling Weekly that "it's hard to hear" and he "can't stand it" because the critics "don't understand the bigger picture that we have had to deal with".

> "Organising cycle races in the UK is harder than ever before": Tour of Britain hits back at critics calling race "dull"

The Tour of Britain relies on local authorities, already strapped for cash, to pay for the policing required to implement a rolling roadblock across the route, a different and more expensive model to what race organisers in France and Spain deal with.

Bennett continued: "I was saying to colleagues last night, it would be perfect to have a sprint stage, a climbing stage, a sprint stage, a climbing stage, or two sprint stages and then two climbing stages so you can stop the so-called Twitterati from criticising you on social media. I've shut it off now. I just don't respond to it.

"Because the country is in such a difficult financial situation, we're in such a state now that local authorities are being bled of the funds from central and local government [...] the country is in a situation where local authorities are prioritising spending elsewhere, they're going to say, 'well, that's our priority', and we fully understand that.

2023 Tour of Britain stage three, Olav Kooij wins again (SWpix.com/Simon Wilkinson)

[SWpix.com/Simon Wilkinson]

"So when you then get a local authority that gives you a decision, right at the last minute, 'yes, we can do this' and they sign an agreement and a contract, and they're key stakeholders to us. You then think, 'well, hang on, we can't have a stage in Suffolk and then one in Cumbria, because there's a two-hour drive limit regulation for the teams'.

"You can't just design the strategy of the race, as you would like it to be given the last-minute signature on the contracts."

The Tour of Britain does not have a title sponsor, nor a leader's jersey sponsor, and added to the financial concerns, "We've had Brexit, we've had Covid, we've had the Queen dying five days in and with three stages to go," Bennett added.

> Tour of Britain stage neutralised and diverted after motorcyclist suffers "serious injuries" in unrelated crash on route

"Those places paid a lot of money to run the race, and they still want their pound of flesh. We honoured all of those. You can imagine the situation we're in. That's why the Women's Tour had to go, that's why the Tour Series had to go. It was too early in the year to raise the funding to do it."

Commenting on the wider British racing scene, he suggested British Cycling should step in and "really need to look at it". 

"I don't think [it] can contract any more — it's at the limit now. But they have done a good job forming this committee," he said, acknowledging the formation of British Cycling's task force to "support revival" of domestic racing scene.

The committee will be lead by Ed Clancy, who backed Bennett up on the list of "undeniable problems we're facing".

"The crux of it is funding," he suggested. "Policing costs are significant: I believe it cost the Tour of Britain organisers over £500,000 to police the roads this week; the three-week Vuelta a Espana doesn't cost anything I believe.

"There's not a bottomless pit of money — and I think that's playing its part in the elite domestic road scene [...] race organisers can't continue to keep losing money year on year."

What did you make of this year's Tour of Britain? Let us know in the comments...

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

Add new comment

9 comments

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
0 likes

I feel for Mick and his team.

The financial model he introduced back in the day was a brilliantly innovative. Get local authorities to fund stages so that the race isn't solely dependent on big corporate sponsors. 

Alas, now after 13 years of austerity and public spending cuts, Mick is faced with cash strapped authorities and a prospect base that the event has either already rinsed or fully qualified to a no. Authorities either can't support the event, have already supported the event and won't get sign off for further editions, or simply don't want to support the event.

And corporate sponsors are hard to come by in the current climate... hell they've always been hard to secure, hence why Mick's model came about in the first place.

Therefore I solute the team's efforts in making this happen at all.

Looking at the teams participating or not, one of the classic draws for the race is that its great prep for the world champs, alas this year with the early worlds, that appeal wasn't there and so the quality was not quite as good. 

Then there is the left field stuff. I can't imagine Astana would have stayed away if Cav hadn't bust his collarbone. That would have added huge drama to each days sprint and we'd have likely been championing the course selection. 

Avatar
Dunedin | 7 months ago
0 likes

Firstly I would like to thank Mick Bennett and his team for the great job done. Personally I thought the ToB this year was interesting. I think many found it "boring" due to the fact that TJV dominated, but they have a quality team period, some of whom are absolutely nailing La Vuelta and many would say that is boring this year for that same reason. ToB has the top pundits and superb camerawork so well done for all of that too. It was also great to see smaller teams taking part and even self-funding individuals. We do not invest in cycling in the UK as a whole despite there being so many great cyclists and more upcoming who struggle with incredibly poor road quality and poor infrastructure, as evidenced by the number of mechanicals in the worlds in Scotland. Also the weather was fabulous this year for a change, which may also be a factor for teams not wishing to take part, because let's face it who wants to race in the pouring rain on greasy, wet roads. It would be such a great loss to cycling as a whole if the ToB were to cease existing, previously known as the milk race, which I watched as a teenager many more years ago than I care to think about. Please don't give up, perhaps best to ignore the detractors if they get too loud or better still ask them if they can do better to put their hereto unknown skills and suggestions to good use, as well as put their hands in their pockets!

Avatar
Offwood | 7 months ago
2 likes

They should be congratulated on this year's ToB overall and I hope it can continue. Great climax with the 7 + 8 stages. Very happy to catch it passing through Stroud, especially after the cancellation last year. Lucky with the weather too!

Avatar
Benji326 | 7 months ago
8 likes

Unfortunately I didnt get to see most of the tour, however, I did manage to be there on Winchcombe hill, the KOM section on stage 7, and the atmosphere was electric. It was incredible to be that close to the cars, the marshalls whipping through the crowd, the helicopter overhead and finally the pro's coming thourgh. There wasn't any room to move along the whole section with the crowd cheering, bells ringing, horns and the odd chainsaw revving. That was something I've never been lucky enough to see and will never forget it. It would be a terrible shame if the tour were to go due to money worries or and anti-cycling government not willing to back it.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Benji326 | 7 months ago
2 likes

Benji326 wrote:

... and the odd chainsaw revving.

I'd love to see the H&S assessment for "excitedly using a chainsaw in a crowd"...

Avatar
quiff replied to Benji326 | 7 months ago
1 like

Benji326 wrote:

and the odd chainsaw revving. That was something I've never been lucky enough to see and will never forget it.

WTAF?!

Avatar
yourealwaysbe | 7 months ago
2 likes

I found the Tour of Britain pretty interesting this year. The unusual setup meant i was curious how the teams would react. Missing bonus seconds removed the obvious tactics (i'm not that excited by races being won on bonus seconds). Perhaps ITV just did a good job of the highlights, or the complaining made me more defensive of it, but i enjoyed it. Despite the early repetition, it didn't feel routine.

Avatar
Surreyrider | 7 months ago
1 like

Mick Bennett did a fantastic job getting a race on at all given the really tough circustances but surely there must have been some way of mixing it up a bit more? I have to admit I lost interest in this year's race and I'm normally an avid viewer.

Avatar
Clem Fandango replied to Surreyrider | 7 months ago
2 likes

Would there have been complaints if a British rider (Cav in years gone by or Tom Pidcock maybe) had won multiple stages? 

Latest Comments