The 2021 Tour of Britain route will take the world’s best riders from Cornwall to Aberdeen, via Wales, for what promises to be another spectacular edition of the UK’s leading bike race.

This year’s race route is ground-breaking in many ways: the modern Tour has never visited anywhere as southerly as Cornwall nor as far north as Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire before. For the first time ever both Wales and Scotland will host two stages apiece in their entirety, while seven of the 12 host venues that have now been announced are new to the race!

We appreciate that everybody would like the event to visit their hometown, or maybe a climb they’ve been riding up for years, but it’s sadly not possible to visit every part of Britain in just eight days.

Putting together each year’s route is a logistically and strategically challenging task. Our handy Q&A explainer should provide an insight into what it takes to devise an eight-day race route around Britain.

I can’t believe you’re ignoring my hometown on this year’s race! Why?

Unfortunately we cannot cover every part of Britain during an eight-day bike race. It’s impossible!

Under the rules set by the UCI, the sport’s governing body, we cannot have any stage above 240 kilometres in length. Also, the maximum average daily distance permitted is 180 kilometres, so from starting out in Penzance, we’d have to take the most direct route to get riders to Aberdeen within the rules. Think how many amazing counties we’d miss out – not to mention Wales in its entirety. This route would still face challenges, too, because of the required support from our amazing host venues.

So how do you choose the route?

Despite what some people may have you think, we don’t just sit in a dark room and stick pins in a map at random!

The key thing is this: we have to take the race to those places who support the event financially.

This fact often gets overlooked.

Why’s that?

Organising bike races is incredibly expensive – particularly in 2021, as our planning has had to consider COVID-19 protocols, the cost of which we have to meet.

That may not sound like much, but that’s additional expenditure on top of the event’s other outgoings. We have to pay for the hotel rooms (including breakfast and evening meals) for all the riders, team staff, officials and event crew during the race. Prize money? Yep, we cover that, too – in 2019 that came to a little under £100,000.

Throw in the cost of the live TV production (a significantly higher six-figure sum), the police and National Escort Group teams (who are vital when it comes to making the race safe for everybody), our infrastructure, and staff to oversee the year-long planning of the event, and before you know it the cost of organising the Tour of Britain comes close to £3m per year.

Tell us more…

Because of the infrastructure and resource required to put on the race, our host venues will pay a fee to welcome the Tour of Britain (as is the case with every big cycling event around the world). It’s important to remember that this is always recouped by the sheer benefit of having thousands of people visit – the 2019 race generated a net boost of over £32m for the British economy and around £3m on average for each host venue!

We work with our stakeholders and partners to put the stages together. In regards to this year’s race route – which would have been used for the 2020 Tour had it not have been postponed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic – the starting blocks we built around were the Cornwall Grand Départ and Aberdeen finish.

Then, owing to our fantastic ongoing relationship with our partners in Wales – one that will see the country host two stages in 2021 – this meant that half of the race’s eight stages were quickly filled. Given our final destination, exploring the possibility of holding stages in the Home Counties and East Anglia would have made little logistical sense at this point.

Tour of Britain route

Photo: Nicolas Dlamini and Rory Townsend in action en route to the City of Newport, stage one, 2018 Tour of Britain. 

But you visited [insert place name here] last year and you never come to my hometown!

Once our host venues see the huge boost that welcoming the Tour of Britain provides to their local economies, it’s unsurprising that they do all they can to have the race return. As the race organiser, we have to balance this demand from places who want the Tour of Britain back (and have agreed multi-year contacts with us) alongside potential new host venues!

Also, we also organise the Women’s Tour and Tour Series. Some of our host counties and regions like host to one of these events instead of the Tour of Britain from year to year, too. Looking back at 2019, for example, there were no Welsh stages of the Tour of Britain but the final two days of the Women’s Tour took place in Powys and Carmarthenshire. We always said the Tour of Britain would be back!

In 2021, the Women’s Tour will feature stages in Oxfordshire, Walsall and the East of England – all areas that this year’s Tour of Britain will not visit. If you live close to these stages, please go and support this race and the amazing riders who will compete in it.

As it happens, the vast majority of people in England, Scotland and Wales are within two hours of an event organised by SweetSpot Group in 2021.

There are so many amazing cities that you keep ignoring!

We speak to counties, regions, cities and large towns across England, Scotland and Wales on a regular basis. The places we’d like to take the Tour of Britain to are almost certainly on your desired list but, depending on their local strategies and existing events calendar, some are simply not interested in hosting a cycle race. In 2021, we also have to factor in the effects of the pandemic on council resources.

Nonetheless, we’re certainly doing our best to get around as much of Britain as possible: since 2018, the Tour has visited Carmarthenshire, Warwickshire and Wirral for the first time, and this year we are adding Cornwall and Aberdeenshire to that list. We introduced an innovative uphill team time trial in Cumbria. Newcastle city centre hosted its first-ever stage finish while Manchester returned to the event after a 15-year absence.

We’ve also announced that the 2022 race will finish on the Isle of Wight – another new host venue for the race.