Full stage routes for this year’s Women’s Tour have today been released, revealing a race that looks set to go down to the wire.
This year’s Women’s Tour champion will be crowned in Suffolk following a day of racing between Haverhill and Felixstowe (155 kilometres). A characteristic scenic route through the county will take the peloton past the Melford Hall stately home and through Sudbury before passing along the runaway at Wattisham Flying Station. The route also includes Stowmarket, Wickham Market and Woodbridge, all of which have featured in historic Women’s Tour stages in the county, before heading south towards the finish line adjacent to the beach in Felixstowe.
Mayor of Felixstowe, Cllr Mark Jepson, said: “Felixstowe Town Council is delighted to be supporting the Women’s Tour on its return to Suffolk this year and is proud to be hosting the finale of this fantastic race. With so many events having been cancelled or postponed over the past year, we are very much looking forward to welcoming everybody for a festival of activities across the weekend.”
The six-day event (Monday 4 – Saturday 9 October) will feature its first-ever individual time trial stage in North Warwickshire, while seven of the host venues are new to the race.
Four of the Women’s Tour’s six editions to date have been decided by 11 seconds or fewer; Britain’s Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) won the most recent race – 2019 – by just two seconds over Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon SRAM). A similarly close GC battle is anticipated in 2021.
Oxfordshire will host the Grand Départ on Monday 4 October, with a spectator-friendly stage between Bicester and Banbury. The 147.6-kilometre route once again covers a large section of the county, heading as far south to Culham and the banks of the River Thames, before visiting Abingdon and Deddington on its journey north towards the finish in Banbury. The stage’s three SKODA Queen of the Mountains climbs all fall within the final 60 kilometres, the last of which at Sibford will be tackled twice as part of a 29.4-kilometre finishing circuit.
The Women’s Tour’s continued desire to innovate is evident on stage two, a kermesse around Walsall and its surrounding areas. More details of the first-ever stage to be held in Walsall, including the route and timetable, will be announced shortly.
History will be made when Atherstone hosts the first individual time trial in race history on stage three (Wednesday 6 October). Having welcomed three stage starts in Women’s Tour history, this will also mark the first time the North Warwickshire town will host a finish. The out-and-back route has been carefully designed to measure 16 kilometres / 10 miles, a nod to Britain’s rich history of time trialling over that distance. The anti-clockwise loop passes through Bentley, Birchley Heath, Mancetter before finishing in the heart of Atherstone.
Three days of racing in the east of England to end this year’s race begin with the Shoeburyness to Southend-on-Sea stage (117.5 kilometres) on Thursday 7 October. Inspired by racing on the flatlands of Belgium and the Netherlands, riders will have to be alert to crosswinds and changes in direction as the route heads through Rochford, South Woodham Ferrers, Burnham-on-Crouch (sprint one), Bradwell-on-Sea, Hazeleigh and Rawreth. The day’s sole SKODA Queen of the Mountains climb at Hambro Hill (4.9 kilometres, maximum gradient of 12.8%) near Rayleigh tops out with just 12.7 kilometres remaining and will likely be the instigator for a fast and frantic run-in to the finish line along the seafront in the Westcliff-on-Sea area of Southend.
Stage five starts at Colchester’s Northern Gateway Sports Park, the stunning new leisure facility that is already inspiring local residents to live a more active lifestyle. Riders will complete a lap of the venue’s closed road cycle circuit before heading into Colchester’s historic city centre. Another spectator-friendly stage, the peloton will pass through the finish line on Clacton seafront after just 32 kilometres before completing a 63.5-kilometre loop via Holland-on-Sea, Thorpe-le-Soken and Manningtree. The Women’s Tour’s two previous stage finishes in Clacton both culminated in bunch sprints, won by Marianne Vos (2014) and Jolien D’hoore (2015). At 95.5 kilometres, this is the shortest road stage of the 2021 race.
Mick Bennett, Women’s Tour race director, said: “We are all set for what promises to be another memorable edition of the Women’s Tour! From our first-ever individual time trial in Warwickshire, an innovative stage in Walsall, potential for crosswinds en route to the finishes in Southend and Clacton, plus the bonus seconds that line the route from Oxfordshire to Suffolk, there are plenty of opportunities for the race to come alive!”
Further details of the 2021 Women’s Tour – including stage timetables and competing riders – will be announced shortly.