Discover the best Women’s Tour vantage points
- Credit: SWpix
There are only 10 days to go until the prestigious Women’s Tour returns to north Essex and Suffolk, as over 100 of the world’s best female cyclists take to the region’s streets.
Stage One of this year’s race is scheduled for Monday, June 6 and will cover a 142km route from Colchester to Bury St Edmunds. There are plenty of great vantage points in each location – and in other towns, villages and rural hotspots along the way.
Pamela Donnelly, chief executive of Colchester Borough Council, said: “We’re counting down the days until this spectacular international event returns to Colchester. The Grand Depart from Colchester Sports Park is a great opportunity to showcase the excellent cycling facilities we can all now enjoy in the borough.
“This year there’s even more opportunities for residents, visitors, schools and businesses to see and cheer on the riders with over 20 miles of racing in the borough. Keeping active is so vital to our physical and mental wellbeing, so this is a great opportunity to gain inspiration from some of the world’s most elite sportswomen.”
Cllr Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public health and public protection, said: “It’s fantastic to have the Women’s Tour back this year, with the first stage of the race finishing in Bury St Edmunds.
“We’re proud to welcome some of the world’s top cyclists to Suffolk and showcase all our county has to offer. I hope the race inspires more people to get out on their bikes and discover the benefits to physical and mental wellbeing.”
Mick Bennett, race director of The Women’s Tour, said: “We are delighted to be returning to Colchester for the start of this year’s Women’s Tour and especially with Colchester Sports Park welcoming us once again. It is great that we can showcase this wonderful facility with the Women’s Tour and give people the chance to come see the Sports Park first hand.
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“This year’s route will again take us through the heart of the historic city centre to bring the race and these world-class athletes to people before taking in new areas of the borough as we race on into Suffolk. We will be racing through some of the prettiest towns and villages in Suffolk on our way to Bury St Edmunds, which always holds a special place in our hearts as it is where the first ever Women’s Tour finished.
“Coming straight after the Queen’s Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend, it is a great opportunity for people to extend their celebrations and holidays – we can’t wait to get going!”
Where to watch
Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or simply a curious resident, here’s everything you need to know if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the action.
Colchester Sports Park
The Grand Depart of the Women’s Tour 2022 takes place at Colchester Sports Park, off junction 28 of the A12.
From 9.30am, visitors can see the riders prepare for Stage One and warm up around the one-mile cycle track before the deputy mayor Cllr John Jowers and deputy mayoress Mrs Sue Jowers wave the starting flag at 11am.
There’ll be an array of stalls to browse including from the East of England Co-op, plus a programme of cycling activities for all on the cycle track and pump track, in association with British Cycling. Visitors can enjoy coffee, pastries and more at Paddy and Scott’s café.
Colchester city centre
This is a prime location to watch the action unfold as the route passes many of Colchester’s historic city centre landmarks – including the Jumbo Water Tower, Town Hall, Natural History Museum, Colchester Castle and Firstsite arts venue – in the opening kilometres.
Colchester is a longstanding garrison town and currently home to the British Army's 16th Air Assault Brigade. The Women’s Tour route passes the former Cavalry Barracks, to the east of Maldon Road. It’s large parade ground served as the backdrop for the opening credits of Blackadder Goes Forth.
Layer De La Haye
The route also passes through Layer De La Haye, which dates back to Saxon times when it was known as ‘Legra’, meaning ‘lookout’. Later, Vikings called it ‘Leire’, meaning ‘mud’. The ‘De La Haye’ was added by the Normans after the de la Haye family who owned much of the local land.
Between Layer and Fingringhoe, the route roughly follows the path of the Roman River, one of the best-preserved river valleys in Essex. Much of it, notably Friday Woods which provides an acid grassland habitat for butterflies and moths, is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The largest body of freshwater in Essex was used as a practice location for the ‘dambusters’ bombing raids in the Second World War.
The reservoir is of international importance for wildlife and is an SSSI, a designated Ramsar site in recognition of its wetland status, and a Special Protection Area in order to safeguard its habitats for migratory birds.
A village with a population of around 500, the name Langenhoe is from the Old English for ‘long hill-spur’.
Fingringhoe has frequently been noted on lists of unusual or rude place names. In reality, the village's name derives from its geographic circumstances: it sits at the confluence of the smaller Roman River and the River Colne.
A “hoe” refers to a jutting out piece of land while “finger” describes an elongated finger-like land extension. “Ing” is a common toponym in the UK referring to “peoples”. As such, the name refers to the “people living on the land jutting out into the river”.
The centre of the village is classified as a conservation area, featuring a traditional village pond and red telephone box.
The Hythe is a former port and shipbuilding area to the south of Colchester, located on the banks of the River Colne. Today the area is being developed with residential accommodation, shops and restaurants.
A main focal point of The Hythe is the TS Colne Lightship moored on King Edward Quay. Now home to the Colchester Sea Cadets, this Lightship is a former Trinity House Light Vessel, dating from 1953. It opens to the public on occasion for various events and can be clearly seen close-up from the riverside.
The route passes through Stowmarket town centre at around 13.37pm, and Everyone Active will be on Stowmarket Recreation Ground with a static bike challenge.
Bury St Edmunds
Stage One of the Women’s Tour 2022 will culminate on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds, where an event village will offer a range of stalls and activities for spectators.
British Cycling has a turbo trainer and balance bikes for people to try, with Vertas and Eezybike offering exercise and electric bikes respectively. There will also be a desk peddle bike courtesy of Active Suffolk, a climbing wall from Abbeycroft Leisure, plus other activities from sponsors, supporters and event organiser SweetSpot.
A big screen in the event village will show footage of previous editions of the Women’s Tour in Suffolk, and West Suffolk College will deliver an on-stage performance. Local residents, schools and cycling groups will also be taking part in a community ride that will see them cross the official race finish line.
Start: Colchester, Northern Gateway Sports Park, 11am
Queen of the Mountain 1: Brantham, 11.57am
Sprint 1: Holbrook, 12.10pm
Sprint 2: Hadleigh, 12.57pm
Queen of the Mountain 2: Bildeston, 13.10pm
Finish: Bury St Edmunds, 14.49pm
For more information, visit www.womenstour.co.uk/stages/stage-1