The Tour of Wessex; Three Days of Quintessential English Riding
June 13th, 2017
June 13th, 2017
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The Tour of Wessex is a three-day sportive occurring on bank holiday in May. The standard route offers at least 100 miles each day starting at 8am, with breakfast, and progressing through to 5.30pm with feed stations along the way, Shimano technical support, a wheel guy who will deliver spares via motorbike, and a broom wagon to collect any back-markers struggling with the challenge. There is an alternative 'Medium' route of around 80 miles per day, and one-day entry is permitted, but there really is no pressure to finish fast, or even before 5.30pm cut-off, with many people taking their time to finish the event at a steady pace, either with friends or solo, taking in the stunning scenery along the way.
The Tour started and finished every day in the little village of Langport, offering a campsite next to a beautifully Brtitish pub serving good home-cooked food and even pre-prepared baguettes to take away. Thanks to being smack-bang in the middle of the West Country area, The Tour is able to take advantage of three very different routes in three directions offering something new and interesting, as well as challenging, each day. Day One heads north through the Medip AONB hills to tackle the famous Cheddar Gorge, an opportunity to scale a hill between the cliffs on a long but gentle gradient. The route then skims the outside of Bath, hits the historic town of Wells, passes through Crannock Chase AONB, and then passed Glastonbury Tor before heading home for showers and post-ride coffee.
Day Two heads south for the Doset AONB and the Purbeck hills. Skirting outside of Yeovil the route snakes its way towards Swanage on reasonabley quiet Somerset country roads. The half-way mark rewards you with views of the sea and the cliffs, like hitting the ends of the Earth, before turning round the stunning Corf Castle ruins to head home. Don't let the coast fool you though, with around 2,400m of climbing on the 193km (112 mile) route, it's arguably the toughest route of the weekend. Day Three heads West to the Quantocks hills; yep, that's right, more hills. The final push of the weekend sees you take in 166km, but with over 2,600m of climbing. Welcome to north Dorset! The ride skirts around Bridgewater to tackle the Quantocks before curving through Exmoor National Park for some of the toughest hills of the weekend, but with rewards like rolling hills with patchwork countryside and sea views over Exmoor Heritage Coast.
This is one of the most organised sportives I've been to, both Nationally and Internationally, and one of the most challenging too. Of course you can tackle the Medium Route, but the Standard Route takes in some of the most quintessentially English views and riding we have, so it's a shame not to take on the full challenge, and a challenge it is. The atmosphere was great, with riders from all walks of life joining in the fun; triathletes wanting some endurance training, friends wanting a charity or personal challenge, and people training for foreign events like the Etape du Tour. Whoever they were, I found the weekend to be full of friendly riders with on-board chit-chat, banter, and new temporary friends being made. All of which is undoubtedly a side effect from the relaxed and caring atmosphere of the event, which is a small contributing reason as to why I think it's probably one of the best open road events in the UK.
Follow the Tour of Wessex on Facebook, find out more information online, and put it in your diary for next year.