Cyclists young and old gear up for the return of popular Tour de Essex

Cyclists are getting ready for the Tour de Essex. Picture: SIRKO HARTMANN/GETTY IMAGES/HERMERA

Cyclists are getting ready for the Tour de Essex. Picture: SIRKO HARTMANN/GETTY IMAGES/HERMERA - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

The Tour De Essex might not have the mountainous peaks of the Tour de France but it is winning high acclaim from cyclists as the second annual challenge nears.

Last year’s inaugural event attracted 100 riders and this year 250, from all over the country and beyond, are expected on Sunday 17 September.

Again there will be three non-competitive cycling routes of 28, 58 or 101 miles, for beginners or experienced cyclists, starting from Pilgrims Hatch, near Brentwood.

Founder and organiser James Lord, from Brentwood, said: “We had some wonderful feedback from everybody who took part in the first Tour De Essex last year, as well as from those who came along to spectate and support them.

“Sign-ups for this year’s have started steadily with a significant percentage of places already taken. The message is, if you want to take part, do register sooner rather than later.”

Tour De Essex is approved by national governing body British Cycling.

Money raised from the event will go to Yellowball Foundation, which was set up a decade ago to help disadvantaged youngsters.

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Yellowball founder Dean Horridge said the charity funded free access to healthy, active programmes for those least able to afford them. “They help children to develop essential social and physical skills, build confidence and reach their potential.”

James, a lifelong cycling enthusiast organised the sell-out first Tour De Essex in just three months.

He wanted to build on the surge of interest in the sport following the successes of British cycling heroes like Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome – who has just won his fourth Tour de France – and competitors at the London and Rio Olympics.

His aim was to create a sociable, family-friendly event.

“We may not all be competitive, aspire to take on the two thousand or so miles of the Tour de France, or be up to it for that matter, but the joy of cycling is something I’ve enjoyed since the age of 11 and I know the Essex countryside really well. I wanted to create a structured cycling event which is suitable for different abilities.”

It starts and ends at The Society of Old Brentwoods (Old Brentwoods Club) in Ashwells Road, Pilgrims Hatch.

Everyone who completes will receive a Finishers’ Medal.

See www.tourdeessex.com and http://www.yellowballfoundation.co.uk/