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Double coup for Cumbria as Tour of Britain returns to the county

[C]umbria is definitely the place to be for this year’s Tour of Britain with the county playing host to two full stages of British Cycling’s premier road cycling race in September.

It’s the first time that two full stages of one of Britain’s top sporting events have been held within one county and represents a major coup for Cumbria.

In a series of firsts for Cumbria:

  • The Tour of Britain’s first-ever Team Time Trial stage 5, where pro riders race against the clock, will take place from Cockermouth to Whinlatter Visitor Centre on Thursday 6th September.
  • Barrow will host the Tour for the first time on Friday 7th September, when riders will start Stage 6 from outside Barrow Town Hall and head out on a 170km-long route through South Lakeland and Allerdale, culminating with a summit finish on Whinlatter.

This marks a major return of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain to Cumbria. The last time the race was held here was in 2016, when it started in Carlisle and finished in Kendal after passing through the heart of the Lake District, including the packed crowds on ‘The Struggle’ to summit of Kirkstone Pass. That stage attracted an estimated 175,000 spectators and generated more than £5 million for the local economy, with hotels, retailers and transport providers among many Cumbrian businesses to reap the economic benefits.

Cumbria County Council has agreed to host two stages of the 2018 race with the organisers SweetSpot and will be working with local delivery partners to make the most of the event.

One of the key aims of hosting the Tour will be to encourage more people to get on their bikes and take up cycling, promoting health benefits for young and old alike.

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Transport, said: “This is fantastic news and we’re really over the moon that Cumbria has been chosen for two stages of the Tour of Britain. Nowhere else in the country has been given this honour before and it’s a real coup for Cumbria.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to make the most of this from a tourist and economic perspective, and also to get even more people interested and enthused about cycling. We’ll be working with our district partners, schools, Cumbria Tourism, Lake District National Park, Forestry Commission, United Utilities and also local businesses to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”

South Lakeland District Council’s portfolio holder for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Chris Hogg said: “I’m delighted that the Tour of Britain will once again be coming to South Lakeland.

“It really is a terrific event and at SLDC we have had a long association with the race. It brings world-class athletes to our streets, attracts thousands of people who turn out to watch along the route, brings significant economic benefits, promotes the health benefits of cycling and showcases our wonderful area to a worldwide TV audience.

“We’ve had stage finishes in Kendal before so it is really pleasing that other areas in the western parts of the district will get to enjoy the spectacle this year. I’m particularly looking forward to some of the climbs, including at Hawkshead Hill and Dunmail Rise.’’

Last time the Tour of Britain visited South Lakeland, in 2016, it came a year after the devastating Storm Desmond floods, and SLDC was among a number of Cumbrian organisations that lobbied to ensure the event took in flood-affected areas of the county to help deliver the ‘open for business’ message.

Figures showed that the Tour of Britain attracted 40,000 spectators in South Lakeland in 2016 and helped generate £1.3 million for the district’s economy.

Commenting on the announcement, Mick Bennett, Race Director of Friends Life Tour of Britain organisers SweetSpot said: “We are delighted to be returning to Cumbria with the OVO Energy Tour of Britain and are especially excited this year to be bringing two days of racing to the area.  Cumbria and the Lake District has provided some of the most memorable moments in recent Tour history thanks to its combination of stunning scenery, testing climbs and huge crowds and we are sure that we will see more of this across the 6 and 7 September.

“Wherever fans choose to watch over the two days they will be treated to some of the very best cycling action, but Whinlatter Pass is sure to be the mecca for cycling fans across the north of the country with the riders tackling the climb three times across the two stages.”

Commenting on the launch, Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of British Cycling said; “The OVO Energy Tour of Britain goes from strength to strength as a mainstay of the British sporting year which attracts new fans across the country to our fantastic sport. The 2018 route is one which will really capture the imagination of everyone, whether they cheer from the roadside or watch on television.”

As well as the challenging route, British fans can also look forward to once again welcoming a star-studded line-up of teams to race on home roads this September, including the likes of UCI World Tour squads BMC Racing, Team Katusha Alpecin and Team Sky.

The first teams to be confirmed to have been invited to the race are: BMC Pro Cycling, Lotto Soudal, Mitchelton Scott, Movistar Team, Quick-Step Floors, Team Dimension Data, Team EF Education First – Drapac, Team Katusha Alpecin, Team Lotto NL Jumbo, Team Sky (all UCI World Tour), Aqua Blue Sport, Direct Energie, Wanty – Groupe Gobert (all UCI Pro Continental) and the Great Britain national team.

The final list of participating teams for the 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain will be confirmed week commencing 16 July.

Live television coverage of the Tour of Britain is being expanded this year, with ITV4 screening each stage in full as part of a six-hour daily programme, meaning Cumbria’s spectacular landscapes and scenery will be shown even more extensively to a large television audience during both stages of the race.

The OVO Energy Tour of Britain 2018 Route in detail

Stage One on Sunday 2 September will see the modern Tour visit Carmarthenshire for the first time, as the race gets underway at Pembrey Country Park. Riders will pass through Carmarthen, Brecon and Usk before the stage finish in the city of Newport.  Riders will tackle the 800-metre, 9% average gradient climb of Belmont Hill on the outskirts of Newport inside the final 10 kilometres of racing.

After a year’s absence the OVO Energy Tour of Britain returns to the South West of England and its 10th visit to Devon in the past 12 years.  The stage (Monday 3 September) will start in the UK’s newest town – Cranbrook – and finish in Barnstaple following a hilly finale along the North Devon coast that includes the one-kilometre, 13% average gradient climb of Challacombe, near Woolacombe.

Bristol will host the third stage of the race (Tuesday 4 September), a short, sharp out-and-back leg into the north Somerset hills that includes Cheddar Gorge. The finish on the Clifton Down is the same one as used by the race in 2014 and 2016, where Michal Kwiatkowski, Tony Martin and Rohan Dennis have taken victories.

Stage Four will build on the success of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour’s visit to Warwickshire in 2017 by bringing the men’s race to the county for the first time since 1993 on Wednesday 5 September.  The leg will race over 183 kilometres from Nuneaton to Royal Leamington Spa, using many of the same roads that the world’s top women will cover when Britain’s leading women’s stage race returns to the county on 13 June this year.

The race heads to Cumbria and the Lake District for two stages on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 September, the first of which will see an uphill team time trial from Cockermouth town centre to the summit of Whinlatter Pass.  The 14-kilometre test gains over 300 metres across its length, with the final five kilometres of the test against the clock averaging 4%.

The following day riders will climb Whinlatter Pass twice more, from its harder eastern side, during a 169-kilometre road stage from Barrow-in-Furness. The second of the ascents up the three-kilometre climb that averages 7% will see the stage finish at the Forestry Commission’s visitor centre.

The penultimate stage sees the OVO Energy Tour of Britain return to Nottinghamshire to build upon the success of the 2017 stage in the county.  This year’s longest stage of the race heads from West Bridgford to Mansfield, taking in 223 kilometres.

The 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain concludes with a 14-lap circuit race in the heart of London, using the iconic circuit that the 2015 and 2016 editions finished on, taking in Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, before the finish on Regent Street St James.

The OVO Energy Tour of Britain is British Cycling’s premier road cycling event, giving cycling fans the opportunity to see the world’s best teams and riders competing on their doorstep, taking place between Sunday 2 and Sunday 9 September 2018.

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