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Blog: OVO Energy Tour of Britain

Chris Houghton, CEO of OVO Energy Retail

Re-launched in 2004 after a five-year absence the OVO Energy Tour of Britain was an inspiring opportunity to see some of the World’s best cyclists on our home roads in the UK’s largest free-to-watch sporting event. The race started on Sunday 2nd September in Pembrey Country Park, South Wales and took in some of Britain’s most challenging and beautiful roads before culminating in a spectacular 14-lap final stage in London. The race covered 1,700 kilometres, with more than 300 competitors. Two million roadside spectators and 25 million television viewers worldwide watched the action. For London’s thousands of cycling fans, it was a glorious opportunity to see world class racing first hand as the stage started and finished on Regent Street, with riders streaming past the iconic areas of Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Whitehall; a truly iconic bike race.

It has been a fantastic cycling year for OVO Energy, in May we were proud to support The Tour Series and in June the Women’s Tour, a particularly special race for us.  OVO Energy more than doubled the Women’s Tour prize pot of previous years, bringing the total in-line with the men’s Tour of Britain, a huge statement of support and intent for the future of women’s cycling. Ultimately, it was an easy decision as the right thing to do and we hope it will be looked back on as a significant moment in the progression towards gender parity in cycling.

With the Tour of Britain, we turned the country green again for the final time in 2018 with our second year of Tour of Britain sponsorship.  For this race the sprinter’s jersey was given an extra green twist as at every stage finish the wearer of the OVO Energy Green Jersey was presented with a native British tree to be planted in their honour, at the host finish venue, by conservation charity I Dig Trees. Eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe seemed particularly pleased with his bonsai tree after the stages.

OVO Energy have been working with I Dig Trees to help make a greener, cleaner Britain for future generations. Already this year, 160,000 trees have been planted by 397 different community groups, enlisting the help of 7,259 volunteers.

We’ve been planting trees across the UK since 2015, with thousands of volunteers getting their hands dirty and breathing fresh new life into their local communities. So it’s amazing that the race leader’s efforts in the saddle will make a lasting difference in reducing CO2 emissions and improving green spaces.

At OVO Energy we love the sustainable and accessible nature of cycling and the growth of eBiking has broadened that opportunity to an even wider audience. Everyone can now experience the freedom of riding a bike and benefits of green transport, regardless of age or fitness, making cycling an even greater force for good. As part of the Tour of Britain there were multiple opportunities for spectators to give eBiking a go. Electric bikes from Whisper were available at stage one in the City of Newport, stage three in Bristol, stage seven, Mansfield and stage eight in London. Throughout the race several hundreds of people, of all ages and cycling experience, took to the 250m traffic free test track to experience the fun of eBikes in a safe, closed road environment. Judging by the smiles and comments more than a few of them are new e-bike converts! 

In fact, research conducted by YouGov on behalf of OVO Energy in September 2018 showed that 20% of all British workers would be more likely to obtain an electric bike to Cycle to Work regularly if the Cycle to Work scheme cap was raised. In addition, nearly half (47%) of regular cycling commuters (those who cycle at least once a week) would make the switch to e-bikes if the Cycle to Work scheme cap was raised.

As Britain’s highest ranked road race the OVO Energy Tour of Britain has always attracted the stars of cycling and this year was no exception with both 2018 Tour de France winner, Geraint Thomas and previous winner and this year’s third placed rider Chris Froome of Team Sky riding together. For Welshman Thomas the race starting close to home made it particularly special, Thomas said: “As soon as I’d finished the Tour de France I knew I wanted to ride the Tour of Britain.” Thomas launched a spectacular attack on stage one but it soon petered out as the reality of Tour de France racing and post-race celebrations cancelled out his excitement at competing on home roads. Always popular with spectators, this failed attempt endeared Thomas only further to the crowds. The stage, and green jersey, went to Andre Greipel. 

The Tour of Britain route has been designed to show off the wide variety of terrain we are lucky to have in the UK. Aerial shots and race coverage gave an excellent overview of the rich landscapes of the UK. The sharply changing gradients, narrow roads and steepness of Britain’s climbs presented a different set of challenges from the Tour de France climbs of the Alps or Pyrenees but were no less difficult to conquer, as could be seen on the riders faces as they hauled themselves to the finish line over some of the UK’s steepest passes; Haytor, The Tumble, Hartside Fell and Whinlatter Pass.

At OVO Energy we’re huge fans of cycling and there are many parallels between this incredible sport and our business and mission. Like us, cycling is known for innovation, efficiency and its use of smart technology. At OVO Energy, we are applying intelligent technology to decarbonise heat and transport, helping to fight climate change and improve air quality, ultimately delivering clean, affordable energy for all.
Cycling is an amazing sport with every person on a bike contributing to a cleaner, greener, healthier Britain for future generations. It was an honour for us to join the millions of cycling fans out on the road, and following on TV at home, to watch this spectacular and inspiring race. Seeing our green jersey winners proudly holding up their commemorative tree on the podium was a real pleasure. The trees planted in their name are a lasting, and living, reminder of their success and will continue contributing to making Britain a greener place for us all, long after the race is over. 
And to cap it all off, it’s just been announced that, in 2019, the OVO Energy Women’s Tour will be increased to six days. Adding a sixth day opens up new opportunities for the race and its riders. As title sponsor of the race and supporters of women's cycling, OVO Energy is thrilled at the prospect of showcasing the race in new regions and to new audiences.


We can’t wait for 2019!  

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