The Tour of Britain made its first foray into Devon in 2007 when the race crossed briefly into the county from Somerset. Since then, Devon’s involvement has grown year-on-year, featuring again in 2008 as part of a stage which started and finished in Somerset, co-hosting two South West Stages with Somerset County Council in both 2009 and again in 2010, before a Devon only Stage became a regular fixture from 2011.
Here are some highlights from the Devon stages over the years plus GPX and KML files for you to download here:
Three of Great Britain’s Gold medal winning Olympians from Beijing (Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Chris Newton) took part in the 2008 Tour. Although the Stage started and finished in Somerset, the riders passed through Tiverton, South Molton and a gruelling King of the Mountains climb at North Molton, before heading onto Exmoor and onto the finish in Burnham-on-Sea. Geoffroy Lequatre (below) was the star of the day, with a long solo break that built the foundations for his overall win that year.
Some of the largest crowds of the 2009 Tour of Britain were in Bideford to witness a formidable sprint victory by Edvald Boasson Hagen, then racing for Team Columbia-HTC before his move to Team Sky. It was an incredible fourth stage win of that year’s race for the Norwegian on his way to winning the race overall. Due to his attacking in the break on Dartmoor, Thomas De Gendt secured the King of the Mountains Jersey with two stages remaining in the race.
Anyone who was at the start at Hatherleigh will remember the giant bicycle – billed as the ‘biggest bike in the smallest town’ – which featured in the carnival procession before the pro riders rolled out of the market town.
Then British Road Race Champion Kristian House led a breakaway group through Mid and East Devon as they tried to escape the peloton, but it was another Brit who took the honours on the day. The carnival atmosphere which had begun at the start was matched by jubilant scenes at the finish in Yeovil as Ben Swift, who was 21 at the time and riding for Katusha, took his first professional victory to became the first British stage winner in the Tour of Britain since 2007.
The race returned to the South West for one of the toughest stages of the 2010 Tour of Britain. Dan Martin, then of Garmin Sharp, continually attacked in search of the stage win, but although his bravery earned him the award for the most combative rider of the Stage, it was Wout Poels, of Vacansoleil, who eventually broke away to cross the line alone in Teignmouth, giving a portent of the climbing skills we’d see from him in later seasons.
Clear blue skies and huge crowds welcomed the Tour of Britain to Devon at both the start, outside Exeter Cathedral and at the finish on Exmouth seafront. In between the race crossed Dartmoor with some tough climbs, but the peloton was all back together at the end for a sprint finish in front of packed crowds on Exmouth’s esplanade. Mark Renshaw took the victory after being led out by his teammate Mark Cavendish, in what appeared to be a thank you gesture from the British sprinter.
Record crowds of more than 220,000 lined the route from Barnstaple to Dartmouth as the Tour of Britain returned to the North Devon coast for the first time since 2009.
Two time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso and former Olympic Road Race Champion Samuel Sanchez were among an elite breakaway group, but it was Sanchez’s teammate Pablo Urtasun who took the stage win in front of an estimated 50,000 fans who had packed out Dartmouth on Devon’s south coast a gloriously sunny day in Devon.
The Tour of Britain celebrated the tenth anniversary of the modern race in 2013 and for the first time included a summit finish. Devon was the choice for that historic moments, with months of hard work from Devon County Council, the Dartmoor National Park and race organisers SweetSpot going into making it a success, in front of tens of thousands of fans.
Winner of the Tour’s first ever hilltop finish was Simon Yates riding for Great Britain, edging away from a small group containing race leader Sir Bradley Wiggins in the final few hundred metres, and producing some iconic images of the race.
A reverse of the 2011 Start/Finish locations saw the Tour of Britain finish in the heart of Exeter, with the final climb of the day, Stoke Hill, in the final few kilometres.
Along the way the stage also took in the climb of Haytor, which once again saw packed crowds cheering on the riders. Leading the way were four riders, including eventually winner Matthias Brandle of the IAM Cycling team who managed to stay ahead of the peloton in a thrilling finish just ahead of breakaway companions Shane Archbold and Maarten Wynants, with the main field at 14-seconds.
Brandle would go on a day later to take a second win from a breakaway, this time through the Chilterns to Hemel Hempstead.
A repeat of the 2013 Start/Finish locations saw the Tour of Britain stage run off in extremely blustery and often wet conditions starting from Sidmouth on the Jurassic Coast and finishing atop the climb of Haytor in the Dartmoor National Park.
With the race together at the foot of the Haytor climb it was BMC Racing’s Rohan Dennis who kicked things off with the first attack, being joined by Tom Dumoulin, Gorka Izagirre and Poels. Poels led the way, striking out with 1.5-kilometres to go to cross the summit alone for the victory, his third Tour of Britain stage win.