Having attracted thousands of spectators to the 2018 OVO Energy Tour of Britain Grand Depart, world-class cycling will return to Carmarthenshire this June when the finale of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour takes place exclusively within the county.
The world’s best riders will tackle a 126-kilometre (79-mile) stage between Carmarthen and Pembrey Country Park on day six of Britain’s most prestigious women’s cycle race (Saturday 15 June).
In a first for the Women’s Tour, the field of Olympic, world and national champions will notably complete a lap of the Carmarthen Velodrome as part of the stage’s ceremonial start, as well as taking in part of Pembrey’s new, closed-road cycle circuit on the approach to the finish line.
“We have designed this stage with a view to testing our star-studded field one final time while at the same time showcasing Carmarthenshire’s fantastic cycling facilities and gorgeous landscapes,” said OVO Energy Women’s Tour race director Mick Bennett.
“The fight to be crowned our 2019 champion will go down to the wire, so I know that the people of Carmarthenshire will get behind this stage with the same enthusiasm and passion as they did when the Tour of Britain visited last year.”
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “On the back of a hugely successful men’s Tour of Britain which started here in Carmarthenshire in September, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome the OVO Energy Women’s Tour in June.
“On this occasion, we will be hosting the final stage, which will take place completely within Carmarthenshire, taking in some of our most breath-taking scenery and making the most of two of our national cycling facilities – our historic velodrome in Carmarthen, and our new National Closed Road Cycling Circuit in Pembrey Country Park.
“As a county that’s made no secret of our ambition to be known as the Cycling Hub of Wales, we are excited to bring yet another high-profile race to our towns and villages for everyone to get involved in and enjoy.”
Stage six’s route passes through a handful of towns that featured in last year’s Tour of Britain opener, including Nantgaredig and Llandeilo.
The day’s first SKODA Queen of the Mountains climb of Bethlehem Hill (1.8km long, 3% average gradient) infamously saw race fans cook 14 kilograms of bacon on BBQs as part of their Tour of Britain celebrations in September.
Following that is stage six’s toughest climb – Black Mountain, near Gwynfe – which measures 7.2 kilometres in length, boasts an average gradient of 5.3% and featured in the 2010 Tour of Britain.
The peloton will then reach Pembrey via unrelenting terrain through Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Capel Hendre, Pontyberem and Trimsaran. The stage will approximately feature 1,800 metres of ascent, making it the second toughest in OVO Energy Women’s Tour history.
Local rider Manon Lloyd, whose Drops team will be competing in the race, said: “I’ve always dreamed of having a home race and getting the chance to go past my front door is incredibly exciting – it’s a really nice surprise! The Tour of Britain’s visit to Carmarthenshire last year was one of the biggest things ever to happen in the county, and I know the Women’s Tour’s visit will be equally as popular.
“We’ve got some of the hardest roads in Britain, so this will be a really difficult stage. Having family and friends out will give me that extra boost to push that little bit harder!”
This year’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour will take place over six days for the first time in event history.
This year’s race, which begins in Suffolk on Monday 10 June, will see Kent and Oxfordshire welcome the tour for the first time on stages two and three. Burton Dassett Country Park in Warwickshire will host the race’s first hill-top finish on Thursday 13 June, before the first of two Welsh stages takes place in Powys the following day.
The OVO Energy Women’s Tour continues to form part of the prestigious UCI Women’s WorldTour series, the sixth event of which – the Amstel Gold Race – takes place in the Netherlands on Sunday (21 April). Further information on competing teams, stage times and leaders’ jersey designs will be made after Easter.