An organizer of one of Britain’s premier cycling events claims that organizing road races in the country is “most definitely” harder than it has ever been. Top riders are also concerned.
Due to a lack of money, the Women’s Tour was postponed this year. The men’s Tour of Britain, which concluded on Sunday, was also staged without a title sponsor despite ongoing support from longer-term partners.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the hardest it’s ever been, according to Mick Bennett, who organized both events. “The [Tour of Britain] costs just under £3 million a year to produce; that makes me terrified to death.
“The expenses are simply staggering. Since 1983, I’ve been doing this. Since living expenses have increased and local governments are under pressure, they won’t prioritize funding a bike event over providing public amenities like libraries or youth clubs.
The Tour of Britain’s organizers must rely on local governments to pay for the race’s passage through cities and towns and to improve roads.
In order to minimize interruption and maintain spectator and rider safety, the event itself must also foot significant costs for the police of a moving barrier.
Other nations’ models, such those in France and Spain, can frequently be significantly different and much less expensive.
For the second time, Van Aert wins the Tour of Britain.
British Cycling, the nation’s national governing body, announced the creation of a task force in August to figure out what must be done to keep racing alive in the nation.
Eight people will work with former professional and Olympic gold medalist Ed Clancy to discover solutions.
Clancy states that “there are a few undeniable issues we’re facing.” The key issue is money… The price of policing is high: I estimate that it cost the Tour of Britain organizers over £500,000 to police the roads this week, while the three-week Vuelta a Espana is free.
There isn’t an endless supply of money, and I believe that contributes to the elite domestic road scene.
Bennett continued, “British Cycling really need to look at it, I don’t think [the racing scene] an agreement any more – it’s at the limit now,” sounding visibly disturbed. However, they did an excellent job of creating this committee.
What are the opinions of the talent of today?
Currently, Britain has several riders competing at the highest levels of the sport, including Tour de France stage winner and Olympic mountain bike gold medalist Tom Pidcock of Ineos Grenadiers, who also told BBC Sport in July that the situation was the “worst he had ever seen.”
Tao Geoghegan Hart, who won the 2020 Giro d’Italia and is currently with Lidl-Trek, stated: “There are thousands of people in the UK who have a big interest for the sport of cycling.
“I believe there are many different aspects to consider. The absence of diversity is the most urgent and concerning. There are a lot of moving components in races, particularly the volunteers, sponsors, and local governments and organizations.
“In the UK, there is no women’s [World Tour] squad. This year, there was no Women’s Tour. If we view ourselves as this major cycling nation with Olympic gold, Tour de France victories, and all the other honors, then I don’t think that’s acceptable.
This year’s Women’s Tour loss was a significant event. According to Bennett, a return date for it is 2024.
It was once the first race in the world to pay its winner the same as its men’s equivalent, in this case the Tour of Britain. It is a progressive race that is categorized by the World Tour.
The 2015 road world champion from Lidl-Trek, Lizzie Deignan, said: “I’m disappointed and can also say I don’t fully understand how it has occurred. Participation rates are higher than I’ve ever seen, in my opinion, when I’m out in the UK practicing on British roads.
How far has racing declined in the UK?
Clancy also thinks that participation in the UK is generally strong, as evidenced by the amount of riders who belong to clubs, spend their disposable income on bikes, and ride for fun and commuting.
It was also odd to see overall winner Wout van Aert wearing a leader’s jersey without a single race sponsor emblazoned on it, despite using the same design as last year. The men’s Tour of Britain has seen thousands flock to the race across England and Wales this month, including half a million in Manchester for the opening stage alone.
The most successful team in the sport, Van Aert’s Jumbo-Visma, as well as Ineos Grenadiers, the de facto British squad in road cycling, made the race interesting.
But this year’s 16-team competition only included five of the World Tour teams. There were 11 in 2018. As it was in the 1980s, when the Tour of Britain was known as the Milk Race, a sizable contingent of the greatest cyclists in the world frequently participated in this race.
Bennett continued, “We’ve had Brexit, we’ve had Covid, and last year the Queen passed away with three stages left and five days left to go.”
Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the 2022 Tour of Britain was canceled, and despite meticulous planning for the remaining stages, there was no cycling that day. Even while the country was in grief, cycling executives still had a bill to pay.
“Those places paid a lot of money to participate in the race, and they still demand their pound of flesh,” Bennett added. They were all honored by us.
“I’m sure you can see where we’re at. Because of this, both the Women’s Tour and the Tour Series had to end. The time to raise the necessary funds was too early in the year.
Why not merely observe riding on television?
Every July, the Tour de France draws a sizable international audience and is competitive with many of the major sporting events in the globe.
It can be simple to think that British cycling is in excellent shape when British cyclists are winning their fair share of the major competitions, like Pidcock did in the Tour de France last year on the fabled Alpe d’Huez hill.
However, at that level, there are several teams that depend on competitions like the Tour of Britain; some of these teams are paving the way for change in a sport that, at least in some regions, sorely needs it.
A Cornish “continental” level team called Saint Piran offers programs on rider mental health and sustainability, the latter of which is a bit of a gray area in a sport where relatively little carbon footprints are disclosed.
Teams with smaller finances need the Tour of Britain to survive; one such team, AT85, dissolved in the middle of the 2023 season.
Ricci Pascoe, manager of Saint Piran, emphasizes how crucial it is to maintain a vibrant club environment.
“At the World Tour level, we’re doing fantastic because World Tour teams have produced Olympic medalists. But the true issue is that we are being squeezed at the “conti” level.
It sort of depends on development level. We’ll pick up any late developers you have, and we’ll likely re-enter two or three riders into the World Tour.
The future British Cycling moved quickly to establish a taskforce to gather information, and Clancy, the taskforce’s chair, and his larger staff promise to return back with suggestions sometime early in the next year.
Clancy asserts that race organizers “cannot keep losing money year after year.” “I think that cycling has many advantages. I recall, many years ago, being with my grandfather and watching the Milk Race pass through Holmfirth.
“Elite sport has many advantages, but not just those. In order to encourage commuters, leisure bikers, and communities to become involved, I believe in the trickle-down effect.
Bennett’s enthusiasm and optimism have never wavered in the face of Bennett’s difficulties, and Clancy hopes the latest drop-off is only a “short-term thing.”
Bennett remarked: “Watching the kids’ zeal… the kid on the side of the road who spent the entire day creating a banner or poster and hadn’t slept the night before from excitement.
“Watching them all yell at the top of their lungs in their uniforms. It truly is fantastic. Even just imagining it makes me emotional.
And the bikers adore it; that is something that is lacking in Europe.