The Tour of Britain Women returns, but is an SD Worx clean sweep inevitable?

The four-stage route looks to suit a strong all-rounder with a mix of punchy and flat stages

The UK’s most prestigious Women’s WorldTour stage race returns on Thursday June 6, 2024, under the new name Tour of Britain Women. The race was forced into a one-year hiatus in 2023 due to issues with sponsorship and funding under race organisers SweetSpot. However, it was announced earlier this year that the UK’s governing body for cycling, British Cycling, would take over both the men’s and women’s Tour of Britain, appointing Rod Ellingworth as the race director, as part of the body’s strategy to grow races in the UK. 

Due to the late announcement and race organiser only having 10 weeks to work with local councils, the women’s race has sadly been cut down to only four stages instead of its usual six and does not include a time trial or mountain stage, but Jon Dutton CEO of British Cycling insisted that the women’s race will return to its original format in 2025, saying: “This year is just about re-establishing, and then growth thereafter.” 

The four stages this year total 488.5 kilometres and take place in Wales and the north of England. Many of the host towns and cities will be familiar to the professional peloton battling for victory on its roads, with many start and finish locations having hosted races previously. The start of the first stage takes place in Welshpool, Wales, and will be the longest stage of the four-stage race at 142.4km. The opening stage is a hilly affair with continuous undulations around north Wales, featuring one category one climb – Llangynog, which is 6.1km long with an average gradient of 5.3%. The stage will finish in the seaside town of Llandudno, and the final 10km is littered with small punchy ascents, which will whittle down the bunch and will most likely boil down to a sprint for victory from a select group. 

Stage two starts and finishes in Wrexham but opens with a relatively flat profile until the peloton tackles the category one Horseshoe Pass at 113km, which is 4.2km in length and has an average gradient of 6.4%. With the climb being just 25km from the finish, it provides the perfect opportunity for any attackers to try their luck, but the downhill into the finish also leaves it open for a rider with a fast finish to take the spoils. The following stage in Warrington will most likely be a sprint finish thanks to its flat profile over the 111km route – there are only two category three climbs in the middle of the stage, but nothing too hard that will prevent any of the sprinters from taking the stage win. 

The final stage, starting in Manchester and finishing in Leigh, is a relentless day of ups and downs, including two category one climbs. It is a stage that will suit a punchy rider and will be the final opportunity for any of the GC contenders to firm up their finishing position in the overall standings. Overall, the four stages will suit a rider who boasts a punchy style of riding, and one rider going into the race with a favourite tag firmly on her back will be Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime). She’s had several wins already this season and had a strong performance at RideLondon Classique last month, helping teammate Lorena Wiebes sprint for the overall title. However, with a few more testing climbs in this race, Kopecky will be the best bet for the overall Tour of Britain title for the Dutch team, especially as there will be no Lidl-Trek or Visma-Lease a Bike to contend with. But we certainly won’t be counting Wiebes out for stage wins that require a fast finish, as not only does she have 10 wins to her name this season, but she is also the only rider to be lining up to the 2024 edition with five stage wins to her name in this race (when known as the Women’s Tour). 

There will be home riders from the absent teams of Lidl-Trek and Visma-Lease a Bike on the start line, but they will instead form part of the Great Britain national team. Lizzie Deignan will head the team as the two-time race winner and will be vying for victory once again, and she’ll be joined by Lidl-Trek teammate Elynor Bäckstedt, who will have a home advantage with two stages taking place in her native Wales. The six-strong squad will be completed by Elinor Baker, another rider hailing from Wales, Anna Henderson, Millie Couzens and Flora Perkins. The Great Britain team is certainly strong with strength-in-depth to rival the likes of SD Worx-Protime for stage victories and the overall title. 

Another rider with home advantage, but not a part of the Great Britain squad, is Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM-Fermenich PostNL). She had a strong spring Classics campaign with third at Paris-Roubaix and fourth at Amstel Gold Race, so could look to go for stage wins on the hillier terrain. The team also has Charlotte Kool, who will be wanting to out-do her sprint rival Wiebes after being pipped to second on two of RideLondon’s sprint opportunities last month. She’s yet to secure a win this season but has come agonisingly close on multiple occasions. 

Letizia Paternoster (Jayco-Alula) looked strong throughout RideLondon and came second on the race’s opening stage, only being beaten by Wiebes for the stage win. Jayco-Alula will head to the Tour of Britain with a strong-looking team, including Georgia Baker, Georgie Howe, Ruby Roseman-Gannon, Tenial Campbell and Jeanne Korevaar

Without some of the bigger WorldTour teams included in the race, it’ll either go one or two ways – SD Worx-Protime will take a clean sweep or the formation of the Great Britain squad will tip the scales and prove to be a sticking point for the Dutch team. The truncated format might result in more aggressive racing, as teams and riders will need to capitalise on fewer opportunities to make a significant impact, so we are expecting exciting racing as the pro peloton returns to the UK for this prestigious stage race. And with riders such as Demi Vollering, Marianne Vos, Elisa Longo Borghini, Kasia Niewiadoma and Lizzie Deignan on the race’s honours roll, who will add their name to this illustrious list of champions in 2024? 

Shop now