Regional: Cycling fans set to flock to Bicester for tour start

Bicester is to host the start of the prestigious Women’s Tour professional cycling race, which will pedal from the town on Monday, June 8, it was announced today.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 1:01 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 2:35 pm
The Women's Tour reaches Edge Hill in 2018
The Women's Tour reaches Edge Hill in 2018

Oxfordshire pro-cyclist, Katie Scott, joined community cycling groups and pupils from both Bicester’s Longfields Primary School and The Cooper School at the official announcement in the town’s Garth Park on Thursday, February 13.

Katie, 18, is a CAMS–Tifosi team rider, from Faringdon; she is expected to be one of around 100 women taking part in the gruelling six-stage tour later this summer.

This is the second year that Oxfordshire will host the Women’s Tour. The district councils, Oxford City, and county council are working in partnership with race organisers, Sweet-Spot, to deliver the event in a three-year commitment which began in 2019.

Bicester will send the riders off in the Women's Tour

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.

"The benefits of cycling for personal health cannot be over stated, 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.”

Different routes are planned each year to showcase the county’s diversity to a national and international audience. Last year the tour tackled the gruelling hill climbs of Edge Hill and Avon Dassett.

This year, the county will host the prestigious opening stage, with Bicester having the honour of starting the race.

Pro-cyclist, Katie Scott (left) joined by Bicester mayor, Jason Slaymaker; councillor Ian Hudspeth, leader of OCC; councillor Barry Wood, leader of CDC and councillor Richard Mould as well as Bicester school children

Cycling fans are expected to visit Oxfordshire to watch the event, generating additional business for restaurants, bars, hotels, B&Bs and shops along the route.

Councillor Richard Mould, chairman of the policy committee, Bicester Town Council, said: “This is exciting news for the whole of Bicester. In an Olympic year, sport is already high on the agenda and to be able to watch the world’s top riders racing through our streets will be a real treat.

"With more visitors expected in the town, the launch is also an opportunity for local traders to receive a welcome boost for their business.”

After leaving Bicester, 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.

Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, added: “Bicester is the ideal start for this year’s Women’s Tour and I have no doubt the riders will receive a great send off.

"As a Healthy New Town, cycling already plays an important role, with residents encouraged onto two wheels through free bike servicing schemes and involvement in community cycling clubs.

"We know it can help towards both physical and mental wellbeing and by bringing some of the world’s top riders to Bicester, we hope to inspire even more people to get into cycling.”

Last year’s race has already created a lasting health legacy for Oxfordshire. The County Council has been working in partnership with Active Oxfordshire, TRAX, British Cycling and Thames Valley Police to refurbish ‘waste’ bikes for young people facing barriers to cycling.

In October, ten Oxfordshire women received British Cycling Breeze Champion training, giving them skills and knowledge to lead social bike rides in their communities. This was funded by Oxfordshire County Council, Public Health and Active Oxfordshire.

Women’s Tour Race director Mick Bennett, said: “Oxfordshire is a historic and world-famous county; therefore, I am delighted that the Tour is returning for a second year.

"I’m confident we’ll leave our world-class field with a truly unforgettable memory of the county’s beauty and diversity, helping to reinforce the prestige of the event."

There will be guided rides for women in the lead up to this year’s Tour.