Friends Life has been unveiled as the title sponsor of the inaugural Women’s Tour cycle race, which runs from 7th – 11th May 2014.

The five-stage road race gets underway in Oundle, Northamptonshire and finishes in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where the first ever winner of The Friends Life Women's Tour will be crowned. Along the way, stages will take place in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Suffolk.

The sponsorship entitlement will include the Friends Life Yellow Jersey, which will be worn each day by the race leader.

Andy Briggs, Group Chief Executive of Friends Life, was joined by Olympic Gold Medal winner and triple world champion Dani King and double World Junior Road Race Champion Lucy Garner for the announcement of the sponsorship at Friends Life’s London HQ.

Andy Briggs said: “We are delighted to be the main sponsor of the first ever Women’s Tour and we are proud to support cycling and women’s sport in general. The Women’s Tour is an ideal partner for Friends Life as we continue to build our brand.

“Our business is about developing financial fitness through each stage of life whether it’s saving for retirement or financially protecting families. We fully support what the Women’s Tour is trying to achieve – there are many other great activities connected to the race giving opportunities for more people to get involved in sport.”

Above – Dani King wearing the new Friends Life Yellow Jersey alongside Andy Briggs, Group Chief Executive of Friends Life

Each of the key stage towns visited by the Women’s Tour will host a Women in Sport Festival, and lots of fun events for children of all ages across a wide range of sports.

This announcement comes as tour organisers SweetSpot released the names of more top riders who will be competing. Joining reigning World and Olympic Champion Marianne Vos will be World number one Emma Johansson and current leader of the UCI World Cup and British Champion Lizzie Armitstead.

Lining up alongside them will be three further riders from the world’s top ten, Belarussian Alena Amialiuski, double World Champion Giorgia Bronzini and Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, plus a further six national champions, Gracie Elvin (Australia), Liesbet De Vocht (Belgium), Joelle Numainville (Canada), Trixi Worrack (Germany), Ashleigh Moolman (South Africa) and Jade Wilcoxson (USA).

Hugh Roberts, Chief Executive of organisers SweetSpot said: “We are delighted to be working alongside Friends Life for The Women’s Tour this May and we are looking forward to working with them to ensure that women’s cycling gains the platform it deserves and hope this partnership grows ever stronger in the future.”

“This partnership is very much an affirmation of what we wanted for The Women’s Tour when we set out on this journey. Securing the support of such an established blue chip organisation, will raise the profile of not only women’s cycling but women’s sport in general within the UK – Friends Life are the perfect fit.”

Below – Dani King and Lucy Garner pictured with the new Friends Life Yellow Jersey

Commenting on the announcement, Dani King said: “I’m really excited to be a part of the first ever Friends Life Women’s Tour. To have such a big company supporting women’s cycling is huge for our sport, and women’s sport in general.”

Lucy Garner, who will race past her home in Leicestershire on Stage Two of the race said; “It’s going to be great. I can’t wait to ride in the Friends Life Women’s Tour this May. Not a lot of riders get to say they have raced through their home town, so that is really special for me and I have no doubt the crowds will be huge!”

The Women’s Tour, which will see 96 of the world’s top riders competing from 7th to 11th May 2014, has been granted the highest possible ranking for a stage race, by the UCI putting it on a par with the world's top races for women.