Each year, the Tour of Wessex covers more than 330 miles over three days and has been recognised as one of the world's leading cycle events by the author of the new Harper and Collins book World’s Ultimate Cycling Races.
As a result, the Tour is fast becoming one of the most respected events in the global cylosportive calendar, generating over £120,000 for the local economy every May. Starting and finishing in Somerton each day, the 2012 event attracted more than 2,300 riders from 20 different countries, notching up a total of 211,605 miles between them.
Beyond just a sporting event though, the vision of Tour organiser and owner of Pendragon Sports Nick Bourne is to establish Somerset as a year round road cycling destination, with the Tour of Wessex as its flagship event.
“Our ultimate aim is to boost inbound tourism for Somerset and ensure the County takes maximum advantage of the UK’s cycle tourism industry, which is valued at around £635 million. As a result we’re constantly introducing new activities and highlights to encourage more people to experience the County’s world famous landmarks and stunning terrain by bike, whether it’s the long sweeping flats of the Somerset levels, the majestic coastal vistas of the Jurassic Coast or the climbs of Cheddar Gorge and Exmoor. We’re also looking to build on the extensive national media coverage we achieved in 2012 to further highlight how diverse Somerset is for cyclists of all abilities.”
Launching the event, Wendy Houvenaghel said, “Our sport’s profile has never been better so I’m particularly proud to be part of an event that’s inspiring people of all ages to hop on a bike and enjoy the freedom and fitness it brings. Added to this, the routes Nick and his team have devised really are a fantastic way to showcase the region to both visitors and residents alike.”
Taking place from the 25-27 May, the 2013 edition will see the introduction of several new attractions, including a Breeze Ride, the Breeze network from British Cycling is all about fun, local bike rides for women. Thanks in no small part to our Olympic heroes, cycling is becoming more and more popular in the UK but, still three times as many men take part regularly than women and this gap is growing according to British Cycling’s Brian Johnston.
“Our Breeze ride initiative aims to change this pattern, representing the UK’s biggest ever programme to encourage more women to get out on a bike. We’re therefore extremely pleased to be working with Nick and his team to offer Breeze Rides on Saturday 25th May. Led by a trained Breeze Champion, riders will weave their way through Somerset’s beautiful lanes before enjoying refreshments from a selection of Clarks Village retailers. Better still, each ride is free, offering the perfect chance for women of all abilities to enjoy a fun and social bank holiday spin!”
British Cycling’s involvement in the 2013 Tour doesn’t stop there however. Whether a budding Cavendish or a Wiggins wannabe, children of all ages can emulate their Olympic heroes on the 25th May thanks to the Tour’s Grass Track races, part of British Cycling’s Go-Ride Racing initiative.
Another innovation for the 2013 Tour is the introduction of Medium rides, covering 73 miles, 83 miles and 57 miles each day respectively. These Medium rides are designed for those riders wanting an enjoyable challenge without taking on the longer distances, with riders still able to sign up for one, two or three days of riding.
Meanwhile for serious amateurs and athletes in-training the full-distance Tour is a chance to experience everything Somerset’s roads can throw at them over the three days. The beautiful ascent of Cheddar Gorge soon settles riders into the 107-mile first stage before they hit the leg-breaking climb up to King Alfred’s Tower. Stage Two is the longest at 116 miles and sees riders head south toward to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, taking-in West Lulworth and Corfe Castle before they head home, where their thoughts will soon turn to the gradients that await them tomorrow, for stage three is the king of stages. As with each day’s ride, participants head out from Race HQ at Somerton, but today signs direct them West toward Exmoor’s windswept plateau. What follows is 112 hard miles via Minehead and the incredibly scenic Porlock Toll road up onto the moor before the descent into Dulverton signals the beginning of a long ride back to the finish via Taunton.
Many participants in the past have chosen to camp at Somerton Sports Ground during the event but this year the unique Pop-Up Hotel will offer riders and their families the convenience of staying on-site, coupled with the luxury of great furnishings and nutritious locally sourced food specially prepared to provide maximum recovery.
“The Pop Up hotel is a fantastic addition and only complements the other outlets helping keep riders rested and fuelled for the challenge. Joining the Hotel at the start-finish area will be the Rotary Club Charity tea tent, Claud the Butler Pop Up Café and a Cider Bar stocked by Somerset’s own Orchard Pig. We’ll also have a number of sponsors present at the race HQ, including sports nutrition supplier Accelerade UK, and we are currently in talks with a number of high profile celebrities interested in taking part” Nick Bourne said.
Also involved with the 2013 Tour will be official charity partner Rotary Charity Fundraisers. Working with Pendragon Sports, they are offering riders raising a specific level of sponsorship the chance to receive free cycling kit and a refund on their entry fee. All money will go towards selected charities, with riders also able to nominate their own charity or good cause. All riders will also receive a goody bag full of Somerset produce, free gifts from sponsors and information about enjoying Somerset’s extensive offerings for cyclists of all abilities.
Entry starts from £30 for each day’s ride, while the three day ride starts from £90.
Event website: www.pendragonsports.com/tour-of-wessex-2013