DEVON will have featured in The Friends Life Tour of Britain more times than any other venue outside of London when it hosts Stage Five on Thursday 11 September.
The 2014 edition of Britain’s most prestigious race will be the eighth time that The Tour has ventured into the county and it will re-visit some of its most popular locations from previous editions of the race.
With less than a month to go, communities across the county are gearing up to cheer on some of the world’s best riders when Britain’s most prestigious cycle race returns to the county.
The Devon Stage, hosted by Devon County Council and sponsored by South West Highways, will be Stage Five of the race. Starting at The Strand in Exmouth and finishing in Exeter High Street, it will cover 110miles (177km) of the county.
Not only did Exmouth and Exeter feature in 2011 in a reversal of this year’s start and finish, but Exeter High Street also hosted a YodelDirect Sprint last year. The SKODA King of the Mountains climb at Mamhead was also on last year’s route and features again this year.
The Friends Life Tour of Britain will be returning to Dartmoor for the fifth year running. Haytor cemented its place in the history of The Tour last year as it became the first summit finish in the modern era of the race. It is included this year as a SKODA King of the Mountains climb, just as it was in 2011.
Crediton has witnessed some of the fastest racing on the Devon Stages having featured as the location of YodelDirect Sprints in 2009 and 2011 – just as it will again this year.
The riders will also visit Tavistock and Princetown, both of which were part of the 2010 and 2012 editions of the race. It was in 2010 that Bradley Wiggins finished second in the Stage which started in Tavistock and finished in Glastonbury.
Over the years, fans who have turned out at the roadside of the Devon Stages have seen some of the biggest names in cycling - Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, former world and British champion Mark Cavendish, former World Champion Thor Hushovd, Olympic and Commonwealth Gold Medallist Geraint Thomas, Tour de France stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen, 2014 Giro D'Italia winner Nairo Quintana and 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for cycling, said: “The Tour is a great occasion for all of the communities it passes through, and people in Devon always embrace this colourful spectacle. We have seen the popularity of cycling in Devon grow ever since the county first featured in the race and we’re delighted that this year will see Devon playing a part for the eighth consecutive year. It’s a prestigious event and Devon provides the perfect backdrop for The Tour – and the race coverage highlights why Devon is a premier destination for cycling tourism.”
Councillor Iain Chubb, East Devon District Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “Congratulations to our colleagues at County Hall on hosting a stage of this prestigious event for a record eighth time. It will be fantastic to welcome thousands of spectators to this fabulous stretch of the Jurassic Coast as competitors ride from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton at the start of Stage Five. Holiday visitors and a global TV audience will get a taster of East Devon’s fabulous scenery and its numerous other attractions and we hope to see many of them here for a holiday break in the not too distant future. Cycling is also a great fitness activity so I’m hoping people of all ages will be inspired to saddle up and enjoy our great outdoors on two wheels – maybe at a slightly slower pace!”
Councillor Rosie Denham, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Economy and Culture, said: "It’s wonderful that Exeter plays host to the finish of this year’s fifth stage and I have no doubt that the people of the city will line the streets in their thousands to welcome the riders home in what I’m sure will be a thrilling conclusion."
Last year’s tenth anniversary edition of The Tour attracted record crowds of around 250,000 in Devon, generating almost £5.9 million of additional spending in the county. Over the past seven years more than a million people have watched the race in Devon along the various Stage routes around the county, and it has brought in around £27 million to the local economy.
The 2014 Friends Life Tour of Britain will start in Liverpool on Sunday 7 September and finish in London with an individual time trial and a circuit race on Sunday 14 September.