The Women’s Tour, the biggest women's race hosted in Britain, is on the chopping block as the organisers, also behind the men's Tour of Britain, said the landmark race will go on a hiatus for 2023 owing to high running costs and a lack of sponsors and commercial support.
The award-winning race, whose ninth edition was due to roll out on June 7th in Stratford-upon-Avon, has been a staple of British racing in the past few years. The organisers, Sweetspot, who created the race in 2014 and have run it ever since, are finding it difficult to fund the race.
In their announcement of the axe today morning, the organisers said: “Owing to a combination of increased running costs (approximately 20% higher in comparison to the 2022 race), a reduced level of commercial support, and challenges in finding a vehicle partner to replace ŠKODA to help create a safe racing environment for riders and spectators alike, it has proved impossible to deliver the event that was proposed for June.”
> Women’s Tour in danger of being cancelled as organisers make urgent plea for sponsors
On 9 March, the same day that they revealed the route for the now-cancelled this year’s event, Sweetspot had issued an urgent appeal for sponsorship of the 2023 edition of the race, with reports suggesting that if new backing is not secured, the event may have to be cancelled. The Guardian had reported that the organisers face a £500,000 shortfall.
A few days after that, Sweetspot had launched a a crowdfunding initiative to help cover the event’s organisational costs and make up for the shortfall in sponsorship income, as two-time winner Lizzie Deignan declared her support for the beleaguered event.
The organisers, whose event already seemed under fears of organisational shortfall, seemed to have succumbed in the wake of a lack of financial backing.
This decision was taken after the three-week renewed appeal for funding failed to muster the £100,000 deficit for Sweetspot to justify running the race, instead only securing £18,000 via the crowdfunding scheme GoFundMe. The company said it seemed impossible to cover up the holes in finances with no hopes of finding more resources. They also mentioned that the refunds process has already begun to all those who donated through GoFundMe.
> Women’s Tour launches crowdfunding campaign to cover sponsorship shortfall
The organisers Sweetspot, who created the race in 2014 and have run it every year ever since (except in 2020 when it cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic), along with another cornerstone of British racing calendar, men’s Tour of Britain, had hoped that the route announcement will generate additional commercial interest in the race.
In 2022, the week-long stage race went ahead without a title sponsor. Three of the race’s four jerseys – the leader, mountains and best young rider classifications – were also without a sponsor.
Additionally, the race is also seeking a vehicle partner after Skoda exercised a break clause to end its deal at the end of last year. Sweetspot has a soft deadline of mid-April to begin plugging the gap given the need to begin booking accommodation.
The race already had interest from sponsors like cottages.com, Brother UK, Accurist and cycleGuard, but that seems to have failed to have provided enough financial backing for the organisers.
The Women's Tour is Britain’s longest-running major international stage race, which boasts riders like Lizzie Deignan, Marianne Vos and Elisa Longo Borghini as its former winners.
Back in March, Race director Mick Bennett had said: “Given the current economic climate, we have had to work harder than ever before to put together a race befitting of the world’s best teams and riders, so I must thank all of our stakeholders for their continued support of the event.
“We look forward to seeing engaged communities, packed towns, and crowded cities at this year’s race. See you all in June!”
As of now, the organisers say that they are already working on plans for next year’s edition, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the inaugural Women’s Tour. Wales will host the event’s Grand Départ for the first time as part of a long-term agreement already in place with the Welsh Government.
Sweetspot also mentioned that commercial partners wishing to be involved in the 2024 edition can find out more information on their website.
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