Oxfordshire will welcome the Grand Départ of the event for the first time in Women's Tour history on Monday 04 October, when Bicester and Banbury host nearly 100 of the world’s best riders for the start of the prestigious race.
The 2021 Women's Tour will begin in the Bicester’s Market Square, which comprises part of its historic town trail before riders eventually head north to finish in the market town of Banbury, which lies on the River Cherwell.
The 2021 Women's Tour Grand Départ - the first or opening stage of the six-stage race over six days, will take place entirely in Oxfordshire.
About the Women's Tour
Created by SweetSpot Group in 2014, the Women's Tour is the UK’s first international stage race for women, bringing the world’s top riders to compete in Great Britain as a part of the UCI Women’s World Tour.
In addition to its wider aims of promoting active and healthy lifestyles to women, the event has championed equality in sport, notably offering the same prize fund pro-rata as the men’s Tour of Britain.
The race, which has been won by the likes of Marianne Vos (2014), Lizzie Deignan (2016) and Coryn Rivera (2018), attracts an annual roadside audience of 300,000, as well as over three million fans through linear and online platforms.
2021 marks the second year that Oxfordshire will host the Women's Tour. The county council and district and city councils are working in partnership with race organisers SweetSpot to deliver the event as part of a three-year commitment.
Different routes are planned each year to showcase the county’s diversity to a national and international audience. In 2019, stage 3 of the 2019 Women's race started in Henley-on-Thames and ended at one of Oxfordshire's most iconic locations, Blenheim Palace.
About 100 professional riders will weave their way through towns, villages and rural areas, inspiring local schools to organise themed sport and fitness lessons. Highlights of the race will also be screened on ITV4.
Local residents are expected to line the route to cheer on competitors, turning the event into an exciting community spectacle. Cycling fans from further afield are also expected to visit Oxfordshire to watch the event, generating additional business for restaurants, bars, hotels and shops along the route.
Belgian rider and Olympic medalist Jolien D'hoore won the race’s first-ever Oxfordshire stage two years ago, which was held between Henley-on-Thames and Blenheim Palace. Over 53,000 spectators watched the action unfold from the roadside.
Further details of this year's Women's Tour, including the full race route and competing teams, will be announced on the Women's Tour website in due course.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "We're delighted to welcome the Women's Tour back to Oxfordshire, inspiring more people to get their bikes out of the shed. Over the last year, we have seen more and more residents cycling.
"We hope by welcoming back the race, even more people will take to two-wheels, the healthy transport option. The benefits of cycling for personal health cannot be overstated, along with reducing congestion on our roads. Oxfordshire is the perfect backdrop for this race, and we look forward to showing off the county at its best."
Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: "Having the start and finish of the first leg of the Women's Tour in Cherwell is a real honour. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase what our wonderful district has to offer, and we look forward to welcoming the riders, teams and fans for the race this autumn."
Councillor Kieron Mallon, Leader of Banbury Town Council, said: "Banbury is a vibrant market town, attracting visitors from miles around. Fans of the Women's Tour can expect more than just an exciting finish to the grand depart. With our great mix of history and hospitality, you’ll come for the race and stay for the experiences Banbury has to offer!"
Ila Pearson, from Banbury Star Cyclists' Club, said: "It’s so exciting to have a world-class cycling event coming to Banbury. Our club is thriving, with women, men and youngsters all well represented. I have no doubt that the Women’s Tour will inspire others back onto their bikes, and they would be very welcome to join us at Banbury Star Cyclists’ Club."
Mick Bennett, Women's Tour Race Director, said: "After the incredible welcome the Women’s Tour received upon its first visit to Oxfordshire in 2019, I have no doubt that we’re in for more of the same come our return to the county in October. The battle to win the opening stage of the race has historically been fierce – everybody in Banbury should know that they’re guaranteed an unforgettable show, all courtesy of these world-class athletes who never fail to light up the Women's Tour!"