Women's Tour cancelled for 2023 due to financial shortfall

 The peloton races through Oxfordshire during the final stage of the 2022 Women's Tour
The peloton races through Oxfordshire during the final stage of the 2022 Women's Tour

The Women's Tour won't go ahead this year due to increased running costs and a lack of sponsorship, race organisers SweetSpot have announced.

The five-stage race route for June was announced earlier this month with a call for sponsorship funding, while SweetSpot also started a crowdfunding campaign to fill the financial gap.

The campaign has raised £18,000 of a target £100,000 so far, but with a lack of a title sponsor for the race and three of the four jerseys also without sponsorship, it has proven too big a hurdle to overcome to run the race this season.

"Owing to a combination of increased running costs (approximately 20% higher in comparison to the 2022 race) and a reduced level of commercial support, it has proved impossible to deliver the event that was proposed for June," SweetSpot announced on Friday morning, stating that the race will take a "one-year hiatus".

Over 500 fans who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign will receive refunds, while SweetSpot will begin work on planning for the 2024 edition of the race.

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"The Women's Tour thanks everybody who donated for their unwavering loyalty, as well as all the messages of goodwill that have been sent. A refund process, overseen by the GoFundMe platform, has begun.

"Organisers are already working on plans for next year's edition, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the first Women's Tour. Wales will host the event's Grand Départ for the first time as part of a long-term agreement already in place with the Welsh Government."

The race was due to start this year in Stratford-upon-Avon on June 7, taking in stages at Northampton, Guisborough, and Derby before a closing circuit race in Birmingham on June 11.

Previous title sponsors of the race have included Friends Life, Aviva, Ovo, and AJ Bell, though last year's race took place without a title sponsor.

Cottages.com, Brother UK, Accurist, and CycleGuard were on board as sponsors of the 2023 race, though Skoda pulled out of supplying vehicles for the race as well as the men's Tour of Britain, while jersey sponsorships and stage partnership packages also remained unfilled.

The cancellation of the race won in the past by Marianne Vos, Lizzie Deignan, Demi Vollering, and Elisa Longo Borghini, among others, leaves a gap in the Women's WorldTour calendar, while it's also another body blow for the domestic racing scene in Britain.

In February, SweetSpot announced that the long-running annual criterium series, the Tour Series, wouldn't take place in 2023, stating that, "It has proved impossible to compile a commercially viable calendar of events for May due to the pressures on local authority funding, combined with the wider economic challenges all businesses face."

Elsewhere, men's and women's Tour de Yorkshire have never returned to the calendar after the COVID-19 pandemic, with organisers stating last September that the 2022 race would also be cancelled due to "economic factors", while the men's RideLondon Classic stopped in 2019.

The men's Continental racing scene has also been decimated, with just two teams remaining in business this season, down from a high watermark of six as recently as 2018.

Since then, JLT Condor, One Pro Cycling, Wiggins, SwiftCarbon and Vitus have all fallen by the wayside, while the winter saw Ribble drop to club level and earlier this month AT85 (formerly known as Canyon dhb) also collapsed, leaving just Trinity Racing and Saint Piran remaining in the men's peloton.

In the women's peloton, Lifeplus-Wahoo also faced a battle to continue over the winter, having faced a €400,000 budget shortfall after title sponsor Le Col pulled out. The team was able to continue, however, as nutritional wellness company Lifeplus stepped in as title sponsor.