Oxfordshire will play host to the OVO Energy Women’s Tour for the next three years, starting with the county’s first-ever stage of Britain’s leading professional women’s stage race on day three of the 2019 event on Wednesday 12 June.
Stage Three of the high-profile British Cycling and UCI Women’s World Tour event has been secured for Oxfordshire by the county council and five districts in a three-year partnership with the race organisers SweetSpot that will bring major economic and health benefits to the county.
The stage will start in South Oxfordshire and end at one of the county’s most iconic locations, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Blenheim Palace. Details of the exact route, which will pass through the Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire, will be revealed in coming weeks.
100 of the world’s top professional riders will weave their way through towns, villages and rural areas across Oxfordshire, inspiring local schools to organise themed sport and fitness lessons. Highlights of the race will also be screened on ITV4.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We’re delighted to welcome the OVO Energy Women’s Tour to Oxfordshire because it will bring an enormous economic boost to our thriving communities, inspiring more people to get their bikes out of the shed. Oxfordshire is the perfect backdrop for this race and we look forward to showing off the county at its best.”
Commenting on the announcement, OVO Energy Women’s Tour Race Director Mick Bennett, said: “Oxfordshire is a historic and world-famous county; therefore, I am looking forward to the Tour visiting there over the coming years. To have our 2019 stage – the first ever to take place in Oxfordshire – finish in the grounds of the stunning Blenheim Palace will provide the most incredible backdrop; and leave our world-class field with a truly unforgettable memory and reinforce the prestige of the event."
Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of British Cycling said, “We are delighted to see the OVO Energy Women’s Tour continue to go from strength to strength, with a debut stage for Oxfordshire and an iconic finish at Blenheim Palace both highlighting the blossoming stature and demand for the race.
“The growth of the event is a really key part of our ambition to get one million more women on bikes by 2020, and we’re sure that the riders on show in June will help to inspire more women to get in the saddle in Oxfordshire and beyond.”
Families are expected to line the route to cheer on competitors, turning the event into an exciting community spectacle. Spectators will be encouraged to use healthy and environmentally-friendly transport to reach vantage points to watch the race.
Councillor Jane Murphy, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “This is wonderful news for residents and businesses in South Oxfordshire – the economic benefits will be huge. It will hopefully inspire lots of people to take part in healthy activities like cycling, but just as importantly it is going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to watching it.”
Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “The OVO Energy Women’s Tour is going to be a thrilling display of endeavour and endurance by some of the world’s best athletes. The whole county will be there to cheer them on, as an inspiration to all of us to increase our activity levels. Lots of work will be ongoing between Oxfordshire councils and their partners in the coming years to make these three events a massive success and secure the benefits they will bring for the whole county.”
Councillor Louise Upton, Board Member for Healthy Oxford, Oxford City Council, said: “We have huge numbers of cycling fans and cycling clubs in Oxfordshire who will be thrilled to have elite cyclists racing through the county. When I contacted the Women’s Tour organisers a year ago it was beyond even my most optimistic dreams that Oxfordshire would sign a three-year deal with them.
“I hope that this will also be an opportunity to get people, especially women and girls, to think about having a go on a bike and using them to go longer distances. It’s the best way to get round Oxford; but on a good bike, commuting in to Oxford from Kidlington and Abingdon is also possible – and with an electric bike it is easy!”
Councillor Jeanette Baker, Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure & Communities, West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “As a West Oxfordshire District Councillor and cabinet member with the portfolio for health, leisure and communities, this exciting OVO Energy Women's Tour race is welcome on many levels.
“Promoting activity for women either competitively or leisure that culminates in good health and wellbeing, equality, creative community spirit to involve schools, various organisations and a boost to the tourism of the districts, is the perfect package. All this, wrapped in the enjoyment of watching the competitors travel through the counties, makes for a great family day out.”
Cllr Roger Cox, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We’re all very pleased that the OVO Energy Women’s Tour will be racing through the Vale – it’s a great way to promote the qualities of our district to a national and worldwide audience, and it is also a great event for us all to look forward to. You never know, it might inspire a young person from the Vale to become the next Victoria Pendleton or Bradley Wiggins.”
The OVO Energy Women’s Tour is Britain’s longest-running professional women’s race and part of the prestigious UCI Women’s World Tour series.
Thanks to title sponsor OVO Energy, the award-winning independent energy supplier, the event will once again back a prize fund equal to that of the men’s Tour of Britain for the second year running.
The 2019 OVO Energy Women’s Tour will begin in Suffolk with Stage One from Beccles to Stowmarket on Monday 10 June. Further details of this year’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour, including the full race route and competing teams, will be released in the coming weeks.