Following consultation with stakeholders, sponsors and partners, organisers of the Women’s Tour have decided to postpone the upcoming seventh edition of the annual professional cycle race (scheduled to take place between Monday 8 – Saturday 13 June) due to the current international uncertainty surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The decision has been taken early in light of the worsening global situation, following discussions with event stakeholders and partners, in order to provide certainty to the many parties involved in the planning and organisation of the event, including local authorities, police and health services in the UK.
As a part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, the Women’s Tour attracts a significant international presence from teams, riders, officials, staff and media, and it is felt that the risk of increased restrictions on international travel would be detrimental to the future of the race should an early, and conclusive, decision not be made.
Organisers hope to work with the UCI and British Cycling to find an alternative date in the international cycling calendar for the race to take place should conditions permit.
Oxfordshire pro-cyclist, Katie Scott, will join community cycling groups and local children from Bicester’s Longfields Primary School and The Cooper School (secondary); at the official announcement in the town’s Garth Park. Katie, 18, is a CAMS–Tifosi team rider, from Faringdon; she will be one of around 100 women taking part in the grueling six-stage tour later this summer.
This is the second year that Oxfordshire will host the Women’s Tour. The district councils, Oxford City, and County Council are working in partnership with race organisers Sweet-Spot to deliver the event, in a three-year commitment which began in 2019. Different routes are planned each year to showcase the county’s diversity to a national and international audience.
This year, the county will host the prestigious opening stage, with Bicester having the honour of starting the race.
Cycling fans are expected to visit Oxfordshire to watch the event, generating additional business for restaurants, bars, hotels, B&Bs and shops along the route.
After leaving Bicester, about 100 professional riders will weave their way through towns, villages and rural areas, inspiring local schools to organise themed sport and fitness lessons. Highlights of the race will also be screened on ITV4.
Families are expected to line the route to cheer on competitors, turning the event into an exciting community spectacle. Spectators will be encouraged to use healthy and environmentally-friendly transport to reach vantage points to watch the race.
Last year’s race has already created a lasting health legacy for Oxfordshire. The County Council has been working in partnership with Active Oxfordshire, TRAX, British Cycling and Thames Valley Police to refurbish ‘waste’ bikes for young people facing barriers to cycling.
In October, ten Oxfordshire women received British Cycling Breeze Champion training, giving them skills and knowledge to lead social bike rides in their communities. This was funded by Oxfordshire County Council, Public Health and Active Oxfordshire. There will be guided rides for women in the lead up to this year’s Tour.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We’re delighted to welcome the Women’s Tour back to Oxfordshire, inspiring more people to get their bikes out of the shed. The benefits of cycling for personal health cannot be over stated, along with reducing congestion on our roads. Oxfordshire is the perfect backdrop for this race and we look forward to showing off the county at its best.”
Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “Bicester is the ideal start for this year’s Women’s Tour and I have no doubt the riders will receive a great send off. As a Healthy New Town, cycling already plays an important role, with residents encouraged onto two wheels through free bike servicing schemes and involvement in community cycling clubs. We know it can help towards both physical and mental wellbeing and by bringing some of the world’s top riders to Bicester, we hope to inspire even more people to get into cycling.”
Councillor Richard Mould, Chairman of Policy Committee, Bicester Town Council, said: “This is exciting news for the whole of Bicester. In an Olympic year, sport is already high on the agenda and to be able to watch the world’s top riders racing through our streets will be a real treat. With more visitors expected in the town, the launch is also an opportunity for local traders to receive a welcome boost for their business.”
Commenting on the announcement, the Women’s Tour Race Director Mick Bennett, said: “Oxfordshire is a historic and world-famous county; therefore, I am delighted that the Tour is returning for a second year. I’m confident we’ll leave our world-class field with a truly unforgettable memory of the county’s beauty and diversity, helping to reinforce the prestige of the event.”
Further details of this year’s the Women’s Tour, including the full race route and competing teams, will be released in the coming weeks.