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Women’s Tour wants more stages, but UCI says no

Organizer SweetSpot has said it wants at least eight stages to bring the event in line with the men's Tour of Britain, but its attempts have been rebuffed.

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The Women’s Tour wants more stages but says it has been rebuffed in its attempts by the UCI.

Organizers of the Women’s Tour, which currently features six stages through Britain, has said it would like to increase the duration of the race to at least eight days and bring it in line with the men’s Tour of Britain.

However, attempts to gain the additional stages have so far been denied. It is a point that is particularly frustrating to race director Mick Bennett after the Tour de France Femmes was allowed eight stages for its revived race in 2022, making it the second-longest race on the calendar after the Giro d’Italia Donne.

Also read: Women’s Tour wants live TV in 2022, but it’s not going to compromise elsewhere

“We wanted to, and that’s a big beef of mine, but they [the UCI] wouldn’t give us more days,” Bennett told VeloNews. “Yet, ASO came along, and they get eight days straight away, WorldTour. That’s sick. I can’t hold that. You know, you treat WorldTour races fairly and squarely, but they were told that they have eight days, why?”

VeloNews has approached the UCI for comment but has received no response.

Also read: Gallery: The bikes and gear of the Women’s Tour

Organizer SweetSpot has previously hit blockades when it comes to adding days to its showpiece women’s event. Back in 2016, it was British Cycling that denied it a sixth stage — despite the UCI, which was overseen by British man Brian Cookson at the time, being receptive to the idea.

It was ultimately allowed a sixth stage for the 2019 edition.

Coming through COVID-19

The Women’s Tour held its first race for more than two years earlier this month, following the cancelation of the 2020 edition and postponement of this year’s competition due to COVID-19.

The race received some criticism for its failure to produce a live broadcast of the race, despite promising to do so at the start of this year. Prize money for the event also fell compared to the 2019 edition, with this year’s race-winner Demi Vollering taking home just under €3,000 while Lizzie Deignan pocketed about €14,000 two years ago.

While the Women’s Tour is currently on the UCI WorldTour calendar for 2022, it could still be demoted for its failure to produce live coverage. The UCI has remained quiet on the topic, despite requests for comment.

Speaking to VeloNews at the race, Bennett blamed financial problems due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. He remains hopeful that increased certainty around the cycling calendar, and finally getting a race off the start line, will help get the race back on track.

Despite the financial issues, Bennett says he would gladly take any extra race days that came his way.

“Absolutely, at the drop of a hat drop of a hat,” Bennett said. “We would like it so it’s eight days for the men, eight days for the women, both on live TV with the same prize fund, job done. One in June and one in September, with the same facilities. It’s the same team, too. Bosh.”

Bennett says the current limitations set on the race mean that it is unable to visit more of Britain, with this year’s race centered around the Midlands and Southeast of England. Attempts to bring the race to more regions in a single edition would see pre- and post-stage transfers increased.

“This is called the Women’s Tour, it’s not called the women’s Tour of Britain. It gets misquoted as that because it’s a tour within Britain. The men’s Tour of Britain is, you know, from Penzance throughout the UK, so in Wales and England and Scotland.

“We’ve gone through that many, many times, because that only started at five days, and you simply can’t put a race on that’s called the Tour of Britain in five days, it’s impossible to do. We’ve done all the math on it. We know what the minimum transfers are. It can’t be done in five days, six days, and we struggle on eight. So, we want would be eight, nine days, probably max.”