Oxfordshire will host the Grand Départ of the event for the first time in Women’s Tour history on Monday 04 October when Bicester and Banbury welcome nearly 100 of the world’s best riders for the start of the prestigious race.
The 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.
2021 marks the second year that Oxfordshire will host the Women’s Tour. Race organisers SweetSpot are working in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and local district councils to deliver the event as part of a three-year commitment that began in 2019.
The 147.6-kilometre route covers a large section of the county, heading as far south to Culham and the banks of the River Thames, before visiting Abingdon and Deddington on its journey north towards the finish in Banbury.
About 100 professional riders will set off from Bicester’s Market Square, completing a short northern loop that passes by secondary school students at The Cooper School on Churchill Road, before heading south past Graven Hill to Islip Village and on to Oxford.
The group will then sweep past the John Radcliffe Hospital through to Headington and then to Cowley into south Oxfordshire via Blackbird Leys before reaching its southernmost point around the Culham Science Centre.
Heading north through Abingdon, Cumnor, Eynsham, Bladon, the group will then weave their way through towns, villages and rural areas, arriving in Bloxam where they will complete another loop past Hook Norton and Sibford Ferris, followed by a sprint into Banbury.
The stage’s three SKODA Queen of the Mountains climbs all fall within the final 60 kilometres, the last of which at Sibford will be tackled twice as part of a 29.4-kilometre finishing circuit.
Cycling fans from further afield are expected to visit Oxfordshire to watch the event, generating additional business for restaurants, bars, hotels and shops along the route. Highlights of the race will also be screened on ITV4.
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 the iconic Blenheim Palace.
Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “What a fantastic way to showcase our wonderful county to the world. I’m confident this event will bring economic benefits to our communities. I also hope the race will inspire even more people to exercise and take to two wheels, the healthy transport option. Hosting the prestigious race is a great collaborative effort between the county council and our colleagues at Cherwell, Oxford City, Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire, and West Oxfordshire.”
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cycling Champion, said: “We want this prestigious race to leave a legacy for the county; not only a lasting economic impact, but by motivating people to be more active and improve their health. If you’re travelling to a vantage point, why not cycle or walk? Leave the car at home for at least some of your journey and get some exercise as a spectator.”
Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “It is an honour for us to have the first stage of this prestigious race visiting our towns and villages. Cycling is not just an elite sport. It’s an increasingly important mode of transport and way of staying active. Women’s road cycling is growing in stature every year, and I think that seeing the world’s best in action will encourage more of our residents to take to two wheels in their everyday lives.”
Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthier Oxford, said: “Anyone who has watched the Tour de France knows just how exciting these cycle races can be. I can’t wait for the Women’s Tour, the premier international women’s cycle race, to come through Oxford. The route comes through Blackbird Leys, Wood Farm, Headington and Northway, and I hope residents will not just cheer them on but also be inspired by these incredible athletes – focus, dedication and teamwork in action.
“As well as inspiring more women and girls to get out on their bicycles, it’s an opportunity to get creative with a cycling theme. Who knows what we will see along the road – knitted yellow bicycles, wind-powered rotating bike wheels, giant chalk drawings in school playgrounds? Everyone can get involved. Thousands of people will come to watch, and I’m going to be one of them. Now that the route has been announced, start planning your vantage point!”
Councillor Jane Doughty, Cabinet Member for Customer Delivery at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It is fantastic to have such a prestigious event passing through our district. It will help encourage and inspire particularly young people to take up cycling as a fantastic form of exercise and they may even become serious competitors themselves in future. These women are great role models for the sport. The Tour will also highlight our beautiful countryside and encourage tourism which will boost our local economy.”
Councillor Helen Pighills, Cabinet Member for Healthy Communities at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We have lots of cycling enthusiasts across the Vale who will be thrilled to have elite cyclists return to the district. I’m particularly pleased that this year’s race will come through Abingdon as the town is home to a thriving cycling community. This event will be a wonderful way in which to promote our district to a wider audience and encourage a new generation to get active and take up cycling.”
Councillor Maggie Filipova-Rivers, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “I’m delighted that the Women’s Tour is visiting South Oxfordshire again. It is a wonderful event that inspires people to get on their bike, potentially bringing real long-term health benefits to individuals and the whole community. It is also a great way of showing the area off to the wider public who will be watching the race on TV, helping to provide an economic boost by attracting more visitors to Oxfordshire.”