The Ultimate cycling challenge, the three-day Tour of Wessex offers a grueling yet rewarding cycling experience.
Whether you're a seasoned Sportive rider looking to record a fast time or a Cyclotourist wanting to enjoy some of the most historic scenery in the British Isles the three-day Tour of Wessex can surely lay claim to being the most challenging event of its kind in the country. There are single-day events that are tougher than each of the individual stages, but the cumulative effect of three days in the saddle, and the fact that the hardest is saved for last makes the Tour of Wessex a unique test of endurance and recovery set against the historic backdrop of the ancient kingdom of Wessex.
Each stage starts and Finishes in the charming market Town of Somerton, the "Ancient Royal Capital of Wessex". With each day having a character all of its own, each stage gives a taste of life in the villages and lanes of south-west England. The names on the signposts look as if they've fallen from the pages of a particularly romantic gazzetteer. Butleigh Wootton, Cannards Grave, Wookey Hole, Queen Camel. Marston Magna, Compton Pauncefoot, Cerne Abbas, then Puddleton. For every Lower Clatcombe there is a Higher Clatcombe, and the inevitable hill joining the two. Just as the riders began to feel hungry, they pass near South Cadbury or North Curry.
As evocative as the place names are, they cannot summon the sheer majesty of the countryside. The first stage loopes through Somerset and into Wiltshire, passing Glastonbury Tor, climbing Cheddar Gorge, voted one the UK's top ten cycling roads, before tackling the leg-breaking hill to King Alfred's Tower, the day's chief difficulty, before bisecting two great estates of Stourhead and Longleat. Stage two is an out-and-back trip to the south coast, with a tough hill that kicks in having passed the Rude man Geoglyph at Cerne Abbas on route to the Jurassic coast and the impressive ruin of Corfe Castle. Passing through Milton Abbas on the way home gives the riders the feeling of having pedalled into the pages of an illustrated edition of a Thomas Hardy novel.
But the third day is what it is all about, which incorporates Porlock Toll Road, it takes riders from sea level to the highest point in Exmoor, and is probably the most beautiful climb in the UK.
Each stage is fully routed marked and supported with feed stations every 25 mils, services vehicles with spare bikes and wheels, moto safety marshals and broom wagon to sweep up any riders unable to continue.
If you are planning on taking your family there are special activities for children including grass track and Go ride racing organised at the event HQ by British Cycling. 2013 also sees the introduction of British Cycling's Breeze ride which is aimed at encouraging female cyclists to have ago in easy relax format covering 10 or 20 miles.