The Tour of Britain’s promotion to the UCI’s 2.HC status is, according to race director Mick Bennett, confirmation of the esteem in which the race is now held.
Organised by SweetSpot, Britain’s national tour returns for the 11th edition in its modern incarnation this September as part of a huge year of cycling on these shores – with the Giro d’Italia’s Grand Partenza in Belfast, the Grand Depart of the Tour de France from Yorkshire, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow all preceding it.
And Bennett believes the more senior status granted to the event by the sport’s world governing body is just reward for the efforts of organisers SweetSpot, who kept the race running before cycling in the UK moved from the margins to the mainstream.
He said: “In a way we have always in our minds thought of ourselves as already being of that level (2.HC), or at least comparable to it, but it was something we at SweetSpot have worked tirelessly on.
“I’m obviously very pleased and proud, but it is a team effort by everyone here at SweetSpot and reward for our hard work and perseverance through the ‘thinner’ years of cycling in the UK.
“Ironically this year, well before the announcement of any upgrade, we have been inundated with requests to ride from ProTeams, so I don’t necessarily think the appeal to them of the Tour of Britain comes from the status.
“The upgrade of status is really just proof we are on the right tracks with what we have, and are continuing, to do.”
It is important to keep reminding people we are here and that a race taking place in Britain can be considered amongst the world’s best
However, ahead of such a big year for cycling in this country – which Bennett believes will be a big positive for all of Britain’s cycling events – he is pleased to see the race attracting positive headlines.
“The upgrade keeps the race in the news and it helps to raise our profile,” he said. “We can now legitimately say we are on the same level as the Tours of Qatar and California and of equal importance on the world cycling calendar.
“With the development of the new world calendar, it is important to keep reminding people we are here and what we are doing, and that a race taking place in Britain can be considered amongst the world’s best.”
Any fears that the presence of some of world cycling’s biggest events could be a hindrance to the Tour of Britain, rather than a help, are also quickly allayed by the race director.
And he promised to keep building on the success of the previous editions – including last year’s event, which was won by Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and featured a summit finish for the first time.
He explained: “It will be a boost for sure. Thanks to its history and the size of the event the Tour de France reaches people beyond cycling and introduces them to the sport.
“As we have seen with previous visits to the UK, such as when we were involved in London in 2007, it will benefit all cycling events in this country, not just the Tour of Britain.
“With so many events happening in Britain this year, for us it will be a case of more of the same.
“The race continues to take steps forward each year, whether that be by increasing the number of days to eight, introducing daily highlights and then live television coverage, increasing fields or a summit finish.
“Each year has new features and new venues, but we want to ensure a time trial and at least one summit finish are on the route every year.”
Another British race attracting 2.HC status this year will be the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic.
Last year’s inaugural event, won by FDJ.fr’s Arnaud Demare in a bunch sprint on the Mall, attracted a high-class field and Bennett believes the calibre of the race opens up the post-Tour period of the season – including the Tour of Britain – perfectly.
“Prudential RideLondon is important as it means we have a big, single-day Classic in this country, which attracts a very different rider and has a very different style of racing to a stage race,” he said.
“It’s also in that perfect window of post-Tour de France to open the second half of the season.
“The race is also HC this year, so I think you will see another step up, an even better field, and let’s not forget last year’s start list was pretty good, and perhaps a slightly different race.”