Despite its inception being only six years ago, the Women's Tour in Great Britain has quickly become one of the most prestigious events of the UCI Women's WorldTour: a status clearly demonstrated by the calibre of the champions who have contested and won this former one-day and now stage race. Elizabeth Deignan (neé Armitstead) from Trek Sagafredo was the last winner and, to date, the only rider to have achieved two victories.
The organisation behind the Women’s Tour, SweetSpot MD, also runs the men’s Tour of Britain, which has been part of the UCI International Calendar since 2004. As a rehearsal, a special event was organised in 2013 on the final day of the Tour of Britain in London with a one-day women’s criterium race called the Johnson Health Tech Westminster Grand Prix. On that day, after one hour of fast racing, Hannah Barnes (MG-Maxifuel) – who was known for her five successive London Nocturne victories – was able to outsprint Louise Borthwick (Edinburgh RC) and Emily Nelson (Bike Pure-LeMond-Aspire Velotech).
First edition in 2014: victory for Vos
The inaugural edition of the Women's Tour was held the following year, with a UCI rating of 2.1 and becoming the ninth stage race of the 2014 Women's Elite cycling calendar. For a total of 498.9km spread over five stages, it started in Oundle, Northamptonshire, on 7 June and finished on 11 June in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
The Swede Emma Johansson won the first stage ahead of Marianne Vos and Briton Hannah Barnes who had set out her stall with the win at the London criterium. In the second stage to Bedford, two Italian riders broke away and beat the group by six seconds: Rossella Ratto – who became the new GC leader – and Susanna Zorzi. Vos took third place that day, but the phenomenal Dutch rider went on to win all three remaining stages, beating Johansson and the two-time former UCI World Champion, Giorgia Bronzini of Italy. Marianne claimed the race’s final general classification ahead of Johansson and Ratto.
Deignan turns 2015’s crash into 2016 success
The second edition of the Women’s Tour started with drama for the British champion Lizzie Deignan (then known by her maiden name Armitstead) who won the first stage after a bunch sprint. But she was to crash just after crossing the finishing line, colliding with photographers while celebrating, sustaining a sprained wrist and heavy bruising which forced her to retire. Germany’s Lisa Brennauer, who was second in the inaugural sprint, went on to win the 2015 race with victory on the 4th stage and top-six placements on every other day. In the GC, second place went to the Belgian Jolien D'Hoore and third to Christine Majerus from Luxembourg.
Lizzie recovered fast from the crash and completed a wonderful year, winning the UCI World Championships and taking first place in the UCI Women's Road World Cup. The following year, wearing the rainbow jersey, she won the third stage of the Women’s Tour and the final classification ahead of Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio from South Africa and Italian Elisa Longo Borghini; while Brennauer was to withdraw on the final stage.
Niewiadoma’s solo attack and Deignan’s double
Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) had an impressive start to the 2017 Women’s Tour, winning the opening stage in Kettering following a solo breakaway of almost 50km. The Polish rider then managed the precious 1’42” advantage gained on the first day right until the end, losing less than 30 seconds to Majerus who attacked in the challenging fourth stage to Chesterfield. Majerus finished second behind Sarah Roy and third in the final sprint in London won by Jolien D'Hoore. Hannah Barnes was third on GC.
Coryn ‘Coco’ Rivera was the winner in 2018. The American rider of Filipino descent took the second stage win and was in the top 15 each day. She was third on the opening stage won by D'Hoore, fourth on Stage 3 which went to the Australian, Roy, and, after her 14th place on the fourth stage won by the Dane Amalie Dideriksen, Rivera was eighth in the final sprint in Colwyn Bay which saw victory for Lotta Henttala from Finland.
In 2019, Deignan became the first two-time winner of the Women’s Tour. D'Hoore won the first stage again, this time in front of team-mate Amy Pieters and Lisa Brennauer. Then, on the second stage, Vos won the bunch sprint from Deignan and Roy, becoming the new leader – although she was to lose the green jersey the next day to Brennauer, who was second behind the on-form D'Hoore.
Former champion Niewiadoma made another great breakaway on the fourth stage along with Liane Lippert – it was the Pole who got the stage win but the German rider became the new race leader. Deignan finally won the fifth stage in a three-women sprint from Niewiadoma and Elisa Longo Borghini, taking the GC leadership by just two seconds. She then managed her small gap in the last stage, the first time the race had a sixth day, in Pembrey Country Park, which was won by the Dutch woman, Pieters.