With the opening two stages already revealed, this week it’s been announced that Hertfordshire and Essex will also both host Women’s Tour stages in 2014.
Stage Three on Friday 9th May will take place in Essex, based around Clacton-on-Sea in the Tendring District of the county. Hertfordshire hosts Stage Four a day later on Saturday 10th May, starting in Cheshunt, hometown of double Olympic Champion Laura Trott, and finishing in Welwyn Garden City, where Trott began her cycling career.
The Women’s Tour, created by the same organisers that run the men’s Tour of Britain, is set to attract the world’s leading female road racers of which Lizzie Armitstead is one. Commenting on the new event, Lizzie said:
“I’m really grateful to the organisers and really happy that I can focus my season around a home tour, which is pretty special, I never thought I’d get that in my career so I’m really excited about it!
“It’s going to be an interesting year – I’ve got the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games as a goal as well. I’d obviously like to win it, being a home tour, but at the very least it may just be about targeting stages.
“I think it will be a big focus for European riders, not just British riders. I think it is going to be taken very seriously and I think other teams will focus on it.
The inaugural edition of The Women’s Tour received a massive boost when the UCI announced that they’d awarded the prestigious 2.1 status, making it equal ranking to the men’s Tour of Britain.
Lizzie believes this accreditation was an important step, commenting “It has the prestige of a 2.1 race so I think it will be up there with the other similarly-ranked races.
“I think it’s really important that the organisers have taken this step and I’m really proud that it’s going to be in our country.”
The 24-year-old is also positive about the future of women’s cycling at grass-roots level, commenting on British Cycling’s commitment to get 1 million more women cycling by 2020, Lizzie said:
“I think British cycling is known across the cycling community as being forward thinking.
“You’ve got to be realistic in terms of the development of women’s cycling, and we have to take each step at a time.
“I’m a Breeze ambassador for British Cycling so I get updated with statistics and, like they’ve said, there are now 100,000 more people on bikes and there are also a lot more activities going on.
“If women can watch our races on TV then it helps to get access and find out what high-level women’s cycling is about. You don’t really get to know unless you watch it on TV so I think we’re certainly heading in the right direction.
“It’s all about small steps and being realistic about it and I think from a personal experience, every time I ride my bike I see more and more women out on bikes too.”
After a tumultuous year, struck by illness, it seems Lizzie has put her demons to rest and is ready for an epic 2014. “This year’s been very average,” she admitted.
“But all the things I can control myself – training, my lifestyle etc – I did 100% of what I could.
“The things like my health and things that affected my form were out of my control. I’ve now just got to get over it and move on.
“I suppose I can look at it and see that I am still consistently in the top ten in road races even when I feel like falling off the bike! I suppose it’s a good thing, but it’s not good for morale to keep training the same and not see the results for it.
“I’ve now already had my off season, I had two weeks off the bike and now I’m back training for next year already.
“The Women’s Tour, Commonwealth Games and World Championship are my biggest targets next year. I’d also like to have a good Classics season as well but you have to keep your targets under wraps. You can’t have too many so we’ll see!”
The Women’s Tour will take place over five stages between Wednesday 7th and Sunday 11th May, with the Grand Depart at Oundle in Northamptonshire.
Further details of the race and the locations for the remaining stages will be announced over the coming months.