Lizzie Deignan: 'It’s a shame someone can’t see the value of the Women’s Tour'
Lizzie Deignan, the only woman to have won the Women’s Tour on two occasions, has expressed her disappointment at the cancellation of this year’s race.
The Trek-Segafredo rider won her home race in both 2016 and after her return from maternity leave in 2019 and voiced her support for the organisation when its financial woes were revealed early in March.
“Obviously I'm really disappointed by the news that the Women's Tour won't be taking place this year,” she told Cycling Weekly after the race’s cancellation was revealed on Friday.
“It's a shame that someone can't see the value of it as a sponsor considering the crowds it attracts and the quality of racing.”
Since its inception in 2014 the Women’s Tour has been renowned for its tough racing, with one rider saying it was physically far more demanding than the 10 day Giro Donne.
The race was among the first to produce comprehensive highlight on free-to-air TV and has always attracted good crowds, both at stage starts and finishes and along the road, with organisers activating schools who would turn out and cheer the peloton along.
Only the crowds of last year’s Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift were a match for those in Britain, but despite the standing and profile of the Women’s Tour on Friday morning the organisation called time on the 2023 event.
“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,” read the organiser’s press release.
“The decision has been taken now following a three-week renewed appeal for funding, which included an incredibly popular crowdfunding scheme that was enthusiastically supported by over 500 race fans. The Women’s Tour thanks everybody who donated for their unwavering loyalty, as well as all the messages of goodwill that have been sent.”
Deignan has a long and successful relationship with her home Tour, starting six and finishing four of the eight editions to date. And with three stage wins to go with her two general classification victories the race has been a happy hunting ground.
Her attendances have not always been positive experiences though. After withdrawing with injury on the final day of the inaugural edition, in 2015 she won the opening stage but crashed over the line and was forced to withdraw.
The Women’s Tour was a game changer when it came onto the calendar in 2014, bringing much needed professional organisation to a sport where races were largely run by committed, talented but mostly amateur groups.
Riders and teams would praise the organisation and hotels, though the parcours would come in for occasional criticism with stages often concluding with bunch sprints. Though this year’s financial shortfall will need to be addressed, organisers are hopeful the race will return for 2024, as is Deignan.
“I know it will be a loss for the Women's WorldTour season for a lot of riders. I really hope it will be back bigger than ever next year,” she concluded.