In His Own Words: Sport Director Martin Barras on The Women's TourMon 12 May 2014
I have always had an affinity for rock and roll, and the five days I have just spent on the roads of England's East Midlands for the 2014 Friends Life Women's Tour would have to be the closest I’ve ever came to being with a great touring band. If you can, picture the race organisers (Sweetspot) as the tour promoters, people like myself and the race staff as the roadies and the riders as the band and you get an accurate description of what we just competed in!
And as you judge a band on ticket sales and attendance, you can assess this tour by the size of the crowds showing up at the races. In that regard, this rock and roll travelling show was wildly successful. We were tickled pink by the turn out in the pretty start town of Oundle on day one and were positively blown away by the mayhem when crossing the final finish line in Bury St Edmunds. In between, every town and village we crossed tried to outdo one another and it became standard practice to toot the horn at any occasion, just to see how high we could drive the pitch of the screaming crowd.
You might be wondering: “Isn't this what rock and roll is all about? What's the big fuss?" Well you have to understand that the little band that is women's racing was turned overnight into The Supremes, The Runaways and The Spice Girls all rolled up into one. The Big Time! Girl Power! Marianne Vos was undoubtedly the lead with Rabobank as the back up singers and we would like to think that our team was the lead guitar that pitched in with couple of solos alongside Rosella Ratto, Suzanna Zorzi, Sharon Laws, Lizzie Armitstead and others.
Our fans are new to the show but it's easy to imagine they will become fiercely loyal. I tried to ply a few little kids before stage four with caps and bidons. After handing over the goods, I asked them: “so who will you support in the race today?" only to be looked straight in the eye and told "Laura Trott! " or " Wiggle!”
All of this is significant because until last week, we did not have an audience. We have always been convinced we had a great gig to play but years of empty bar rooms and dance halls can take their toll. As a result, there has been a great many band members that left us figuring we would never make it.
After the success of the Olympics in 2012, it's clear we have broken onto the British scene. We are thankful to promoters Mike Bennett and Guy Elliott for making this happen.
We would like to invite you to our next big gig, in Paris on the stage of the Champs Élysées on July 27th. There, we will attempt to prove we are more than a one hit wonder!