WHY THE TOUR OF BRITAIN KEEPS COMING BACK TO THE WEST COUNTRY
The “spiritual home” of the Tour of Britain. That’s how the race’s Chief Executive Hugh Roberts described Devon in 2014, and who are we to argue? We’re proud of our long-standing connection with the UK’s premier cycle race and that kind of recognition from the Tour has helped us to realise our ambition for Devon to provide a world class location for cycling.
It takes a huge amount of dedication between the team in Devon and the Tour of Britain organisers to make it happen. We’re lucky that our small team and the County Councillor responsible for cycling are all passionate about cycling and the race.
We work hard to make it as straightforward as possible for the Tour to run their race on our roads. With 8,000 miles of roads in Devon, it has the biggest road network of any county in England, so there are plenty to choose from.
Deciding where we’d like the stage to start and finish is something that takes a lot of planning. How will spectators get there? Can they cycle there? Are the towns linked to big projects that we can tie into? This all goes into the mix before we even start looking at the route.
In working with the Tour to develop the route, one of the main considerations is ensuring we showcase Devon’s amazing countryside, two coastlines and two National Parks to people watching at home, who will hopefully be inspired to visit, with or without their bikes. We also work hard to ensure the route passes through as many towns and villages as possible so that communities can come and watch. There’s nothing better than seeing schoolchildren lining the road, waving Devon flags as the riders pass.
Finally, there are the logistics. Are the roads wide enough? What condition are they in? There are lots of places we’d love the race to go through but the roads are simply too narrow to accommodate 120 riders and all the support vehicles.
On the 10 occasions that Devon has featured in the Tour, it has generated over £41 million for our local economy which is great for local businesses. The 2021 stage from Sherford to Exeter will be hugely important for economic recovery and it’s a route that should attract good crowds with great scenery along the stunning coast roads in the South Hams and the tough climbs on Dartmoor being sure to play another decisive role. Exeter has provided the setting as an incredible start and finish venue in the past and we’re sure it will provide a dramatic finale again.
We’ve come a long way since the Tour’s first foray into Devon in 2007, when the race briefly crossed the border from Somerset. Councillors were impressed with the event and the crowds, and we haven’t looked back.
We always strive to make the stage memorable. Not just for the spectators, but for the cycling legends we’ve been fortunate enough to see racing in the county over the years. There are so many vivid memories: Sir Bradley Wiggins almost time trialling up Haytor, Mark Cavendish gifting a win to Mark Renshaw in Exmouth, Thor Hushovd walking around Exeter city centre in his World Championship jersey, and hearing across the race radio that Ivan Basso and Sammy Sánchez were in a break on Dartmoor.
Haytor in particular has earned its place in the history of the Tour. In 2013, the Dartmoor climb became the first summit finish in the modern era of the race with Simon Yates, a then unknown 21-yearold, winning the stage. In 2018 we had another first for the Tour of Britain with the race travelling through a building. South Molton Pannier Market wasn’t quite the Grand Palais used in the Tour de France a year earlier, but it was definitely different!
We’re hoping for more memorable moments in Devon as the race returns this September.