Tour of Britain postponed until 2021 as race organisers vow to put public safety first

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
Tour of Britain - PA
Tour of Britain - PA

The 2020 Tour of Britain, which was due to take place in September, has been postponed until September 2021 due to coronavirus.

The news means Britain will not host any major stage races this year with the Tour de Yorkshire and the Women's Tour having already been ruled out.

Hugh Roberts, chief executive of race organisers SweetSpot, had told Telegraph Sport last month that he was still optimistic of being able to stage the 2020 Tour of Britain despite the difficulty of doing so while social distancing was likely still to be in force, not to mention the fact that the Tour de France has been moved to September.

“It won’t be easy, but there will be a way,” Roberts said, adding: “We have in our minds’ eye the third week of July - if we weren’t in a clearer position by then we would have to seriously consider our options.”

However, SweetSpot admitted in a statement on Thursday morning that continuing with the planning and organisation of the race had become increasingly “impractical”. 

“Across the UK there are significant doubts around the potential to stage large-scale public events and gatherings such as the Tour of Britain as early as September and while any form of social distancing remains in place and there isn’t a vaccine available, people’s health and safety must come first,” the statement read.

“Local authority partners across Britain remain under considerable pressure with their priorities rightly elsewhere and so would not be able to contribute fully to the planning of the event, whilst also not being in a position to maximise the social, economic and community benefits that hosting a stage of the Tour of Britain brings to their area.”

Mathieu Van Der Poel - PA
Mathieu Van Der Poel - PA

The postponement of Britain’s biggest race undoubtedly leaves a hole SweetSpot’s finances, with next month’s Women’s Tour - also organised by SweetSpot - having also fallen victim to the virus. 

It’s difficult to assess exactly how big a hole. While there is clearly a loss of income from both races, there is also, presumably, a saving on costs - police and hotels, for instance.

Most of the staff who work on the race are contractors, while television rights are not thought to be worth too much. A source close to the company told Telegraph Sport that SweetSpot would not be at risk.

It is a major blow, however. The race attracts an estimated 1.5million fans to the roadside every year, providing a huge boost for the sport in Britain. 

This year’s route was set to feature a first-ever visit to Cornwall and an overall finish in the city of Aberdeen.

SweetSpot said that it had decided to make an early call due to “a number of impending statutory deadlines in the coming weeks with the police and highways authorities.” 

Additionally, it said, there were a number of practicalities to consider, “including international travel and any required quarantine for teams and riders, and the availability of accommodation at a suitable level, with the Tour of Britain requiring around 4,500 hotel nights during the race.”

SweetSpot added that holding the race behind closed doors was not really an option. Not only would it be “immensely impractical” it would also “rob our venues and spectators of these opportunities and go against everything that cycling, as a free-to-spectate and accessible event, stands for. 

“By moving this year’s planned route to September 2021 our venues and partners will be able to enjoy a full 12-month build up to the race and once conditions allow we look forward to engaging communities across all eight stages, from Penzance to Aberdeen, which we are sure will make the 2021 Tour of Britain a wonderful occasion for all and part of our continued pledge to make Britain a great cycling nation.”

SweetSpot said it still hoped to mark the Tour of Britain in some form in September if conditions allow, although “not with a professional race”.

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