Women’s cycling in Britain will be boosted by the UK’s first ever international-level stage race for women in May this year.
The Women’s Tour takes place from the 7-11 May across the east of England with 11 of the top 13 teams in the world having already confirmed their participation.
Ranked by world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, as a 2.1 event, the race is on par with the Giro Rosa and Ladies Tour of Qatar and as a result has attracted a field of Olympic and world champions.
A Great Britain Cycling Team including double junior world champion Lucy Garner and recently crowned team pursuit world champion Katie Archibald will race.
British team Wiggle-Honda Pro Cycling – featuring Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Elinor Barker – have also confirmed their participation.
London Olympic road medallist Lizzie Armitstead is also likely to feature with her Dutch squad Boels-Dolmans set to enter a team, while Sharon Laws and Hannah Barnes should return to the UK with UnitedHealthcare.
“I'm really excited about the race," said double world junior champion Garner.
"We will have a really strong, young team and a good team to be part of. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out.
"It will be a hard race to get results in because of all the world-class riders there, but I really hope I can compete in some of the flatter stages.
"It is pretty cool the race goes through Cosby. It is flat where I live in Holland so, whenever I come back, it always feels hard training.
"At least I know there aren't going to be any mountains!"
The inaugural running of the event comes with women’s domestic cycling on the increase in the UK, one of the targets of British Cycling’s strategy to get one more million women cycling by 2020.
The number of female British Cycling licence holders has increased by 23% in the last year with a 44% increase in the number of women-only road races and a 66% increase in the number of circuit races between 2012 and 2013.
“Women’s cycling is a clear area for growth in this country and we’re very optimistic that our plans for further strengthening the domestic scene, alongside inspiration through attracting and developing a major international event such as the Women’s Tour, can further impact this trend,” said British Cycling’s director of cycle sport and membership Jonny Clay.
In additional to competitive cycling, targets for other areas in the sport have also been made in British Cycling’s strategy.
These cover recreational cycling through the Breeze participation programme, creating a network of female coaches and volunteers, having more women involved in governing the sport and increasing female membership in British Cycling.
“The introduction of the Women’s Tour from next year can only build momentum further,” British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake said at the six-month update on the strategy.
“We know that British Cycling has a long journey ahead to change the culture of our sport but we are heading in the right direction.”