First gracing the pro cycling calendar in 2014, the Women’s Tour will attract some of the greatest female cyclist in the world to British soil in just over two weeks time.
The five stage race, organised by the Sweet Spot Group also responsible for hosting the men’s Tour of Britain, was one of two UK events to be included in the UCI Women’s World Tour in its inaugural year.
Won by none other than Marianne Vos in 2014, and Canyon//SRAM’s Lisa Brennauer in 2015, confirmed riders for the 2016 edition already include Lizzie Armitstead, Dutch sprinter Kirsten Wild, and defending champion Brennauer, alongside her team mate and stage winner Hannah Barnes.
Countless cyclists from the peloton have applauded the race, and the British public, for their support of women’s cycling. The crowds that line the roads for this women’s race certainly are larger and louder than those seen elsewhere in the world.
Speaking to us about varying audience sizes and interest levels across the world earlier this year, Canyon//SRAM’s Tiffany Cromwell told us: “Before it was a very old school sport with the Italians, the French, the Belgians, now with riders such as Bradley Wiggins the Anglophobe [English Speaking] World has become more interested. And the newer nations are like ‘men or women, we don’t care – we love it, it’s cycling sports, it’s freedom’, and that has brought excitement to the sport.”
This year, both riders and spectators are promised a more exciting race thanks to additional climbing across the five days, particularly over stage three which enters the Peak District.
Though organisation, professionalism and crowd sizes were all noted by riders after past events, complaints came from some that the race was made ‘boring’ and ‘too easy’ thanks to fairly flat courses and limited opportunities for break-away riders to find any success.
As a result, both the distance and total ascent have grown – a steady increase that seems to be building year on year.
- Aviva Women’s Tour Total Distance
- 2014 – 498.9 kilometres
- 2015 – 596.2 kilometres
- 2016 – 616 kilometres
- Aviva Women’s Tour Total Ascent
- 2014 – 4,621 metres
- 2015 – 5,874 metres
- 2016 – 7,600 metres
The increase has to be steady, because the women’s peloton is still significantly more diverse than the men’s. As Canyon//SRAM’s Brennauer told us when we recounted the story of a team rider coming back to the bus professing: “that was the longest race I’ve ever done” (with three more stages to go, alongside seasoned Tour riders): “Well, that’s women’s racing.”
However, every year the gap closes a little more, and though this year’s line up looks even more star studded, the variety where it’s there also provides the potential for some excellent wild card performances from the unexpected.
ITV4 will screen daily highlights of the Aviva Women’s Tour with presenter Ned Boulting being joined by double European Cyclo Cross Champion Helen Wyman, who has raced in the past two editions of the leading race.
The broadcast times of the Aviva Women’s Tour on ITV4 are as follows:
Stage One, Southwold to Norwich
Wednesday 15 June, 21:00 and Thursday 16 June, 12:40
Stage Two, Atherstone to Stratford-upon-Avon
Thursday 16 June, 21:00 and Friday 17 June, 12:35
Stage Three, Ashbourne to Chesterfield
Friday 17 June, 22:30 and Saturday 18 June, 12:00
Stage Four, Nottingham to Stoke-on-Trent
Saturday 18 June, 22:30 and Sunday 19 June, 08:55
Stage Five, Northampton to Kettering
Sunday 19 June, 22:30 and Monday 20 June, 12:40
There will also be plenty of activity on The Tour YouTube channel here.
We cannot wait for the race to begin – so here’s a quick promo vid to whet your appetite, and the skinny on what’s up for grabs, and what you need to know about each stage…