Home » Lizzie Deignan faces rival Kopecky in reborn women’s Tour of Britain

Lizzie Deignan faces rival Kopecky in reborn women’s Tour of Britain

Ninety riders from 15 teams will roll out of Welshpool on Thursday morning as the resurrected and newly renamed Tour of Britain Women gets under way in mid-Wales. The four-day event is one of the key build-up races before the Paris Olympics, and Lizzie Deignan will lead a strong Great Britain Cycling Team.

The world road race champion, Lotte Kopecky, and her SD Worx-Protime teammate Lorena Wiebes, recent winner of all three stages in the Ride London Classique, are the star attractions with Deignan, the home favourite and 2015 road race world champion, plus the double national road race champion Pfeiffer Georgi, the leading British riders.

After the opening stage on Thursday heads north from Welshpool through Snowdonia to finish in Llandudno, stage two will be based on a start and finish in Wrexham, taking in rolling Cheshire farmland and the steep Horseshoe Pass.

The flatter third stage on Saturday is centred on Warrington, while the finale on Sunday, through Greater Manchester, will start outside British Cycling’s headquarters at the National Cycling Centre and after visiting the climb of Ramsbottom Rake – a road so steep that it has a handrail for pedestrians – finish in Leigh.

Six months ago, as doom and gloom enveloped women’s cycling in Britain, the race appeared dead and buried after a bitter spat between the then promoters Sweetspot and British Cycling over unpaid fees for naming rights led to a termination of their agreement.

Even in early spring, the lack of a race director and title sponsor left British Cycling – which, after severing ties with Sweetspot, had promised to deliver both the women’s and men’s Tour of Britain in 2024 – in a precarious position.

But the surprise appointment of the former Team Sky and Ineos Grenadiers deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth as Tour of Britain race director, allied to the injection of a around £20m investment into British Cycling by a new sponsor, Lloyds Bank, has been game-changing.

British Cycling’s chief executive, Jon Dutton, admitted there had been “many” moments when the task of staging the race looked impossible, with Ellingworth describing the planning process with local authorities as a “monumental effort”.

There is also a sense of this year’s revived race being something of a test event for 2025. While the world’s most successful women’s team, SD Worx Pro-Time, are on the start line, there are some lesser teamstaking a significant step up.

“The bigger opportunity is 2025 onwards,” Dutton said, “and in terms of our ambition, we already have half an eye on 2025 and onwards, in terms of what the races might look like.”

Dutton and his team might have wished for a longer race and the hope is for a six-day event next year. They might also have hoped for a greater number of World Tour teams – 11 started the Ride London Classique – but the uncertainty over the race during the build-up to the Paris Olympics has meant that riders have been committed elsewhere.

Lotte Kopecky, of Team SD Worx-Protime, is the favourite and a key member of the world’s leading female cycling team. Photograph: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

“We are very excited to see such a strong lineup of teams joining us,” Ellingworth said. “Having the world’s No 1 team confirmed alongside several others in the global top 10 highlights the significance of this event.”

For those who recall the women’s race being cancelled in 2023 and the dark days of last winter, when the Tour of Britain seemed finished, the resurrection of both women’s and men’s races is a triumph.

It has, however, been a struggle to stage the event for British Cycling and at times it may show. This is the first road race Ellingworth has run and, on a tough route, the disparity in ability and experience between the World Tour teams and some of the lesser lights may be a concern.

That said, a less-structured race may allow lesser-known riders from the ranks of the UCI’s Continental teams a chance to shine. There is no doubt, though, that Kopecky, second overall in the Tour de France Femmes last year and a potential medallist in the women’s Olympic road race, is the favourite.

In the absence of her sponsor Lidl-Trek, Deignan leads a Great Britain team supported by the Welsh riders Elinor Barker and Elynor Bäckstedt as well as Visma–Lease a Bike’s experienced Anna Henderson.