Oxfordshire councils’ commitment to health and wellbeing has received a major boost; three-year sponsorship of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour pro cycling race by GLL, one of sport and leisure’s leading charitable social enterprises.

The race, coming through the county on Wednesday 12 June, is expected to inspire more people to exercise for leisure or in competitions.

GLL’s ambition is to make community services and spaces better for everyone. It is investing £10,000 in the Oxfordshire stage of the Tour over the next three years.

The social enterprise has sports centres across the county, including locations along this year’s race route, in Henley-on-Thames and Carterton.

The sponsorship deal was formerly announced at GLL’s Carterton Leisure Centre on Thursday 06 June. The ceremony was attended by GLL’s Area Community Sports Manager, Rod Noble; OVO Energy Women’s Tour Project Director (Oxfordshire), Gabby Heycock; and West Oxfordshire’s newly appointed Cabinet member for Leisure – and a Carterton councillor – Councillor Michele Mead.

They were joined by a GLL group exercise instructor and leisure centre members who are benefiting from the health dividends associated with fitness classes.

GLL’s Rod Noble said: “The health legacy vision of the Women’s Tour reflects our ambition to make community services and spaces better for everyone.

“Our group cycling, or spin classes, are extremely popular with people of all ages. We’ve chosen Carterton as the place to announce this sponsorship package, because this leisure centre is undergoing a major refurbishment. Part of our commitment to a healthy Oxfordshire.”

Gabby Heycock, OVO Energy Women’s Tour Project Director (Oxfordshire), said: “We are delighted that GLL shares the Oxfordshire councils’ vision to promote, improve and protect the health of local people. GLL has a wealth of experience, not only in delivering excellent fitness facilities but also in the promotion of healthy living and physical activity within our communities.”

Councillor Michele Mead, Cabinet Member for Health and Leisure at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It is fantastic to hear that the women’s race is passing Carterton and I am sure residents will come out in large numbers to see the riders in action.

“This event is truly inspirational for women and anyone who aspires to being involved in elite sporting events and shortly we will have a top-class facility at the Carterton Leisure Centre which could help them fulfil their dreams, so it is a win-win situation for the town.

“Our leisure services operator GLL has invested £8.3m in Carterton phase two and it is great to see them sponsoring the race over the next three years.”

GLL Group Exercise Instructor Joanne Warren, who joined the sponsorship announcement ceremony, comes from an NHS background in mental and physical health.

In February 2018, she joined GLL to pursue a career in fitness and wellbeing, based at Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney.

She started with just one class; 18-months later, this has increased to 11 classes, covering a wide variety of exercises suitable for all age groups and abilities.

Activities include group cycling, total body conditioning, power pump, circuit training, and mindfulness.

Joanne said: “I see mindfulness as an exciting and rewarding opportunity, combining physical and mental wellbeing, which go hand in hand.

“My theory behind the way I teach my classes is to promote quality of life through exercise both physically and mentally.

Joanne is excited about GLL’s sponsorship of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour.

She explains:

“Inclusion is a buzz word in all my activity classes. The reward for everyone in the room is that they’re challenging themselves physically, regardless of ability; and benefitting mentally from the social interaction of the group.

“I’m sure the OVO Energy Women’s Tour will inspire more people to get involved in sport and exercise, either as competitors or for leisure, regardless of age, fitness or gender.

“The tie-in with the event is perfect. We’re particularly excited to be making the announcement in Carterton, where the soon to be refurbished leisure centre will host many more exercise classes.”

Joanne’s partner, Mick Neale (63), has been a member of Windrush Leisure Centre since 2007. He’s delighted that the health benefits of cycling are being promoted to residents, regardless of age.

Mick, a former Cowley policeman, said:

“I’ve seen attitudes change. A few years ago, you got to 50 and society wrote you off. Why bother, you might as well put your feet up.

“Now, it’s all change. “Members of the group cycling classes I attend vary in age from 18 upwards. Some participants, both men and women, are in their late 60s.

“We have a common goal. Exercise to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Age is no longer a barrier in life.

“I know GLL promotes exercise for all, so it’s really exciting that they’re sponsoring the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, with event organisers and local councils all committed to creating a lasting health legacy for residents across the county.”

“It's commitment will help guarantee the legacy of this prestigious event, helping our thriving communities to live safe, healthy lives.”

For more information on the OVO Energy Women's Tour please visit www.womenstour.co.uk/