The organisers of the Women’s Tour, one of the most important stage races in the women’s international calendar, have today launched a crowdfunding initiative which aims to help cover the event’s organisational costs and to make up for the current shortfall in sponsorship income.
First held in 2014, the UCI Women’s World Tour race has seen the cream of the cycling world compete on British roads, and boasts an enviable list of overall winners, including Marianne Vos, Lizzie Deignan, Demi Vollering, and last year’s winner Elisa Longo Borghini.
However, as organisers SweetSpot announced this year’s route – which will take place over five days (down from the usual six) in early June – reports emerged last week that there are growing concerns that the race may not even take place, thanks to a £500,000 funding shortfall.
While the race has attracted backing from cottages.com, Brother UK, Accurist and cycleGuard, SweetSpot say that this year’s edition “urgently requires additional commercial income”.
> Women’s Tour in danger of being cancelled as organisers make urgent plea for sponsors
To combat that funding shortfall, the organisers have today launched a crowdfunding initiative, which they say will enable fans to get closer to the race “than ever before”.
The crowdfunder, SweetSpot says, will “raise funds to help cover ever-increasing organisational costs, as well as a shortfall from sponsorship income”.
They continued: “At present, three of the race’s four prestigious jersey classifications (leader, mountains, and best young rider) remain available, while individual stage partnership packages (including naming rights) are also on offer for the first time for selected days.”
Pfeiffer Georgi rides on the front on stage four of the 2022 Women's Tour (Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
Those looking to show their support can donate as little as £5 and anyone who contributes will have their name included on a “special heroes’ wall” that will be on display at each stage start and finish of the 2023 race, and in the official race handbook.
The organisers also noted that donations will be refunded if the race does not go ahead.
“We have witnessed fans make a significant impact on elite cycling events from a commercial and emotional perspective in similar campaigns,” Nick Bull, the Women’s Tour PR and digital manager, said in a statement.
“Having been inundated with messages from people wishing to show their support for the race over the past week, launching a crowdfunding campaign seemed the logical thing to do. We’ve been blown away by their kind words and everybody associated with the race thanks them for their continued support!”
Lizzie Deignan celebrates winning the 2019 edition (Velofocus)
Coinciding with the launch of the campaign, two-time winner Lizzie Deignan say the Women’s Tour’s potentially perilous position – one that is currently affecting much of the British domestic racing scene – will leave a huge hole in both the national and international racing calendars.
“It will be a huge loss in terms of the opportunity for British teams to have a stage like that to race on, but also internationally,” the Trek-Segafredo rider told the Press Association today.
“It’s a really important race because June doesn’t have many stage races, so it’s brilliant preparation ahead of the national championships and the Tour de France.
“The way the race is run is extremely professional and it’s probably been the most professional race we’ve had on the calendar.”
Deignan, who took the overall win on home roads in 2016 and 2019, is aiming to hit peak form in time for the five-day stage race in June, as she plans to return to the peloton in May following the birth of her second child last year.
“[The Women’s Tour] is what’s been in my mind during training rides,” she added. “If it goes, I need to rethink my whole calendar.”
The Guardian has also reported today that SweetSpot’s chief executive, Hugh Roberts, says that the past few days have brought some “promising” discussions with potential partners – but that nothing has materially changed since the race first appealed for funds last week.
“I would say it’s probably more likely than less likely [the race goes ahead] but it’s a very close call,” Roberts said.
“If we don’t get some good news by Easter, we will be seriously doubting our ability to put together a race that makes sense for us.”
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