Final countdown to prestigious women’s cycle race begins

The sprint finish at Clacton during the 2015 Women's Tour

The sprint finish at Clacton during the 2015 Women's Tour - Credit: The Women’s Tour

You don’t have to be a cyclist to appreciate the spectacle of the AJ Bell Women’s Tour racing through our streets this October – and with so many towns covered by the route, there are plenty of opportunities to make the most of it.

Whether you’re a keen cyclist, love watching live sport, or simply want to get the kids out to see some top class racing right on your doorstep, the AJ Bell Women’s Tour hits our streets on October 8-9 as not one, but two stages pass through the region. 

Riders during Stage 1 of the Women’s Tour in 2018 as they roll out of Framlingham

Riders during Stage 1 of the Women’s Tour in 2018 as they roll out of Framlingham - Credit: SWpix.com

The race starts on Monday, October 4, with the Grand Départ in Oxfordshire, before making its way down to Essex and Suffolk for Stages 5 and 6, covering a total distance of 535km. 

Created by SweetSpot Group in 2014, the Women’s Tour was the UK’s first international stage race created solely for women, and since 2016 it has formed part of the prestigious UCI Women’s World Tour series. 

On average, 300,000 people watch the Women’s Tour from the roadside each year to make the most of this free sporting event, which will include around 100 of the world’s best female riders racing it out to win the coveted jerseys. 

Jolien D’Hoore celebrates winning Stage 1 in a sprint finish at Southwold in 2018

Jolien D’Hoore celebrates winning Stage 1 in a sprint finish at Southwold in 2018 - Credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Race director Mick Bennett said: “Given that we’ve been working with Colchester, Clacton, Haverhill and Felixstowe since the end of 2019, we’re so excited that we’re finally close to actually bringing the race to town!  

“We know from our previous visits to Clacton and Suffolk that the world’s best riders will once again receive a warm welcome from the thousands of fans who will be watching on enthusiastically along the roadside, something that will no doubt lead to thrilling racing and unforgettable experiences for everybody involved. Roll on next week – I cannot wait!” 

Route map for Stage 5 of the Women's Tour

Route map for Stage 5 of the Women's Tour - Credit: SweetSpot

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STAGE 5

Colchester and Clacton will host the penultimate stage of the AJ Bell Women’s Tour as the world’s top cyclists get set to race from the historic castle town to the east coast on Friday, October 8.  

The race will start at the new Northern Gateway Sports Park before heading through the centre of town to start its 95.5km (60 mile) route.  

Cllr Paul Dundas, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “We’re counting down the days until this spectacular, international event comes to Colchester for the first time. With Stage 5 starting at Colchester’s new Northern Gateway Sports Park, it’s a great opportunity to showcase the excellent cycling facilities we can all now enjoy in the borough.  

“As the route passes through our historic town centre, we look forward to seeing residents, visitors, schools and businesses join us to cheer on the riders.   

“Lockdown has taught us how important keeping active is to our physical and mental wellbeing, so this is a great opportunity to gain inspiration from some of the world’s most elite sports women.” 

After leaving Colchester, the route will head straight to Clacton-on-Sea, where there will be an extra chance to see the riders who will pass through the finish line before heading to Holland-on-Sea, Thorpe-le-Soken, and Manningtree before racing back to the finish on Marine Parade West. 

Cllr Alex Porter, Tendring District Council cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: “Earlier this month we saw the Tour of Britain, the men’s equivalent race, draw huge crowds out along each stage and I really hope that Colchester and Tendring residents, boosted by cycling fans from across the region, can rise to the occasion and match that to cheer on these elite athletes.  

“So please start to think now about where you might come and watch the race.” 

Approximate timings 

  • Start: Colchester, Northern Gateway Sports Park, 11.30am 
  • Queen of the Mountain: Tenpenny Hill, 12.19pm 
  • First passage of the finish line in Clacton: 12,40pm 
  • Sprint: Holland-on-Sea, 12.47pm 
  • Sprint: Mistley, 1.27pm 
  • Queen of the Mountain: Manningtree, 1.32pm 
  • Queen of the Mountain: Tenpenny Hill, 1.59pm 
  • Finish: Clacton, Marine Parade West, 2.20pm 

Where to watch 

Northern Gateway Sports Park, Colchester: From 9am, visitors can see  the riders prepare for Stage 5 and warm up around the 1-mile cycle track before the Mayor of Colchester waves the starting flag. 

There’ll be an array of stalls to browse including from the East of England Co-op, Cycle Colchester and Re-Cycle, plus visitors can enjoy coffee, pastries and more at Paddy and Scott’s café.   

Colchester town centre: Another prime location to experience the race as it passes through the historic high street. It’s also market day, with local traders and an array of popular street-food stalls.

Manningtree/Mistley/Lawford: England’s smallest town, Manningtree, with neighbouring villages of Mistley and Lawford, will together host a sprint shortly followed by a Queen of the Mountains’ climb – promising plenty of race action for spectators. 

Thorpe-le-Soken: The bustling village of Thorpe-le-Soken has a number of excellent pubs and restaurants for people to enjoy good food and drink in before and after the race passes through.  

Holland-on-Sea: Just up the coast from Clacton 
is Holland-on-Sea, with long sandy beaches and, for cycling fans, one of the Stage 5 sprints.  

Double the action: Villages along the route from Great Bromley to Clacton will see the action twice as the peloton loops round the Stage 5 course. Key places to watch include Thorrington, where riders will twice compete for Queen of the Mountains points up Tenpenny Hill, and Clacton, where the  riders cross the finish line.

Route map for Stage 6 of the Women's Tour

Route map for Stage 6 of the Women's Tour - Credit: SweetSpot

STAGE 6

The AJ Bell Women’s Tour will return to Suffolk for the sixth time on Saturday, October 9 - making it the county which has hosted the most stages in the history of the tour.  

It will be the first time that Suffolk has hosted the final stage of the race since 2014, and the first time that Haverhill has taken part, while Felixstowe – which appeared in the inaugural edition of the race seven years ago – will host its first stage finish. 

The 155km route starts on the High Street in Haverhill and passes through Sudbury, Stowmarket and Woodbridge on its way to the finish line in Felixstowe. 

Cllr Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public health, public protection and communities, 
said: “We are very proud and excited to welcome the Women’s Tour back to Suffolk this year. After what has been an extremely challenging time for so many, it is a welcome celebration to see the race return to our county, for its sixth visit! 

“Some of the World’s top cyclists will speed through towns and villages across Suffolk and I’m looking forward to seeing our communities, schools and businesses out in force to show their support. 

“We hope the race will inspire people to get on their bikes whether discovering our beautiful county or making  small changes in our daily  routine such as cycling to work or popping to your friends, getting out about on your bike helps your physical and mental health as well as the environment.” 

Cllr Letitia Smith, East Suffolk Council cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, added: “We are very much looking forward to the AJ Bell Women’s Tour returning to East Suffolk and hope that local communities and visitors alike will enjoy this amazing opportunity to see world-class cyclists in action.”

Approximate timings 

  • Start: Haverhill High Street, 11am 
  • Queen of the Mountain: Skate’s Hill, 12.05pm 
  • Sprint: Long Melford, 12.15pm 
  • Sprint: Needham Market, 1.39pm 
  • Queen of the Mountain: Clopton Hill, 2.16pm 
  • Finish: Felixstowe, Sea Road, 3.20pm 

Where to watch 

Haverhill: Watch the race start on Market Hill and then catch it again as it passes along Ehringshausen Way. There’s also a climbing wall and balance bikes on Haverhill Plaza from 9am. 

Clare: The riders will need to slow down and bunch up on Market Hill to take the tight right-hand corner. 

Stowmarket: Finborough Road is a great spot to view the riders as they race past the recreation ground. 
The Blossom Charity in Stowmarket will start the celebrations with a free 90-minute workshop to help people who have been impacted by the last 18 months to build their confidence. 

The Claydon Greyhound: Riders will be slowing to take the tight left junction before heading to the next Queen of the Mountain section on Clopton Hill. 

Sprints: Take in the speed action as the racers take on the Eisberg Sprints in Long Melford and Needham Market. There will be live music on the green opposite Melford Hall in Long Melford from 11.15am -12noon and 12.30- 1.15pm, and the village’s church bells will be ringing out throughout the day to add to the carnival atmosphere. 

Queen of the Mountain: Glemsford and Clopton Hill are great spots to take in the Skoda Queen of the Mountain climbs. Make the most of free craft sessions and entertainment in Glemsford Village Hall and Library as well as a refreshment gazebo hosted by Glemsford WI.

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