For his latest article on, Brendan Gallagher talks to Guy Elliott about plans for The Women’s Tour in 2014.

As a graduate of the British Army’s officer academy at Sandhurst and a former CEO with one of the world's largest logistics company, Guy Elliott makes an unlikely revolutionary but that's exactly what Britain's greatest ever woman road cyclist Nicole Cooke believes, Elliott must be if he is to fulfil his dream of staging a Women's Tour in Britain comparable to the existing Tour of Britain for men.

Elliott has this notion that women cyclists should be treated the same as their male counterparts which might sound like plain logic to you and me – not to mention a basic adherence to human rights and probably the Geneva Convention to boot – but has caused a considerable stir in cycling and beyond. Elliott wants women racers to have the same prize money as the men, same TV coverage, policing, hotels, logistical support, back-up and probably most important of all, the same respect.

So much so that along with SweetSpot – who have run the men's Tour of Britain for the last decade – he will be organising the inaugural Women’s Tour in Britain next May when, with a fair wind most, if not all, of the world's top women racers will contest a five day stage race based in East Anglia and the East Midlands.

“I’ve been reading about the Women’s Tour and am totally supportive,” says Nicole Cooke, the former Olympic and world champion who retired earlier this year. “What is needed here is a revolution – that means a revolution in attitudes to women’s races and how the cycling world views them. And that can only be achieved by setting the bar at the same level as the men.”

“The reality gap of what currently exists in women’s cycling and what should exist is massive and you won't ever bridge that gap inch by inch. It can only be with one bold revolutionary leap. That's how far women’s racing is behind in the way it treats its top competitors.”

Elliott might not yet be sporting a beard and wearing a partisan’s beret but he is definitely the man leading that revolution, totally committed to making his dream come true. It simply won't suffice just organising another women’s race, next year's Tour must match the men in every way possible to be considered a success.

“I'm a huge cycling fan and watching races in Britain and Europe in recent years the sheer unfairness of it all hits you right between the eyes. Men’s races start and finish in town or city centres, are well policed, the accommodation is decent and the prize fund is reasonable. The Women’s races often start and finish in the middle of nowhere, the policing is sometimes negligible and the race conditions sometimes dangerous. The prize money is very small and the accommodation very basic. Too often there is an apologetic air about everything.”

“Many of these girls are truly exceptional athletes and real superstars and among the biggest cycling names in their own countries. Pound for pound they are among the best cyclists in the sport yet the sad fact of the matter is that they are treated like second or third rate citizens. The truth is the way we have been treating our women cyclists is morally wrong and not remotely defendable in the 21st Century.

“When I worked in business, my division was pretty big with over £1 billion annual turnover and we rightly had to meet diversity targets and employ a workforce free of any sexual discrimination. In life discrimination against women normally starts after school or university – where of course they regularly outperform their male counterparts – but in sport the discrimination against women starts at puberty and is totally unacceptable.

“I have no idea how this situation has been allowed to prevail – either politically or ethically – but we are all guilty of it. Of all the money invested in UK sports sponsorship less than half of one percent goes to women, which is a horribly damning statistic. Yet I suspect nonetheless that many of those companies involved in sports sponsorship would claim to be totally compliant with regards to treating women equally within their organisation. It just doesn’t add up.”

Above – Guy Elliott riding The Tour Ride Stoke-on-Trent in September 2013 in aid of the Donna Louise Hospice.

Equality doesn't come cheap, either financially or in terms of effort. The overall basic costing of the race will be well in excess of £1 million. The collective hotel bills alone will be more than £100,000 as will the bill for policing, although that will include the 60 strong team of outriders, which is gathered from specialist police motorcyclists around the country and who add exceptional value to race safety. With the police riders operating, the women can enjoy the security of the same race bubble – the cordon sanitaire – as the men. Without them they will be dodging in an out of everyday traffic with the potential for an accident high. They simply should not have to race under any other conditions.

As with The Tour of Britain local councils and authorities – who really seem to get cycling these days – are the main supporters and have been massively supportive, but Elliott is actively seeking other commercial sponsors at all levels from a headline sponsor downwards: “It’s a great opportunity to get involved at the start of something everyone believes will grow and grow –but it isn’t just going to happen on its own,” says Elliott.

“Logistically everything is in place, all the stages are locked down and full details will emerge progressively over the next few weeks and into the New Year and the UCI granting us its top 2:1 race rating means that we will be inviting the very best women’s teams in the world, along with the top five national teams. That leaves room for three or four other teams and I have been besieged by requests from all over the world for entries. The May slot seems to work for everybody, it doesn’t clash with any races on the Continent and is nicely timed for the likes of Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell who will be looking to ride on the road at that time in the build up to their Commonwealth Games campaigns next summer.

“Contrary to popular belief there are plenty of women’s races around on the Continent and the fields can often be nearly 200 strong. Our aim is to organise a top class event but we are very well aware that we must deliver from the off. That's the whole point; it has to be an event absolutely comparable with those many races laid on for the men.

“TV coverage is in place, with 30 minutes race highlights and half an hour interviews and features because women’s cycling has some great stories to tell. I challenge anyone to meet Laura Trott, Danni King and Joanna Rowsell and not be totally inspired. We have opted for undulating stages initially to encourage exciting races and finishes for the spectators. Also at the ten starts and finishes we will be staging festivals of women’s sport with all the major sports represented at various stalls where there will be opportunities for girls to try their hand at football, rugby, cycling or whatever takes their fancy. Every start and finish will be right in the town centre.”

Below – Hannah Barnes win the Johnson Health Tech Westminster GP in front of Tour of Britain crowds, more of the same is the aim for The Women's Tour.

“UCI rules state that if you are staging an inaugural event you are limited to five days but if it goes off all right we will certainly be looking to expand to eight or more days and to cover more of Britain geographically. If this works we will be pushing on an open door. Nobody would resist a fully-fledged Women’s Tour surely? And if so why?”

So far three of the five stages have been confirmed – Oundle to Northampton, Hinckley to Bedford and most recently what has already been dubbed the ‘Laura Trott stage’ which runs from the double Olympic Gold medallist's home town of Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City where she started riding career. Historic Oundle has been earmarked as the Grand Depart town on day one which squares the circle in a curious sort of way. Oundle School, where the women’s sports festival will be held, is in the heart of the market town that was the former home of Billy Bragg. Now there is a man who knows a thing or two about protest songs and revolutions.