Next week’s Women’s Tour, the premier road race for women in the UK, will not be broadcast live on television as originally planned.
The absence of live television coverage threatens the race’s elite status, with the UCI, cycling’s governing body, demanding it of all WorldTour tier races.
The Giro Rosa, the women’s version of the Giro d’Italia, was controversially stripped of its WorldTour status this year after it failed to produce live images in 2020.
Women’s Tour organiser SweetSpot said a daily highlights programme would still be available on ITV4 and Eurosport GCN for next week’s seventh edition of the race. But, in a statement, it added that market conditions made it commercially impossible to produce live coverage this year, an addition which had been announced with great fanfare in February.
“The past two years have been incredibly challenging as a race organiser, particularly since there has not been an edition of the Women’s Tour for 28 months,” the statement read. “This has been the hardest time in the race’s existence and provided challenges even greater than when we created and established the Women’s Tour in 2014. As a result of commercial realities, we will not be able to expand the coverage of the Women’s Tour in 2021 to include a live broadcast.”
The Women’s Tour swiftly became one of the most popular races on the women’s calendar after its launch in 2014, with huge crowds turning up year after year and riders praising the organisation and general high standard of elements such as accommodation.
The race also famously featured prize money equal to the men’s Tour of Britain. However, that too has taken a hit following the departure of previous sponsor OVO Energy.
The total prize pot for next week’s six-day race is €37,250 (£32,000) compared with €117,140 for last month’s men’s Tour of Britain. Both races are now sponsored by AJ Bell.
That is a reduction of about €60,000 on prize money since the last Women’s Tour in 2019, and is around €6,000 per day prize money on average for the women compared with €14,000 per day for the men. The men’s Tour of Britain also had a slight reduction in total prize pot this year, putting it in line with the UCI’s minimum requirement.
However, it is the absence of live television which will come under most scrutiny, with the men’s race still being broadcast live.
SweetSpot's former chief executive Heath Harvey said three years ago that live coverage represented the “final frontier” for the women’s event but that it was difficult to make the numbers add up, costing “circa £100,000 per day to create a live show”.
The race starts in Bicester next Monday and ends in Felixstowe a week on Saturday.