Wales

Women's cycling race to 'showcase' Wales to world

female peloton of riders Image copyright SWpix
Image caption Olympic and world champions are set to race in Wales this summer

The best women cyclists in the world will help "showcase" Wales to a global audience this summer.

For the first time, Wales is to host two stages of the prestigious OVO Energy Women's Tour - including the tour climax in Carmarthenshire.

That will follow the "toughest ever stage" in the race's history, in Powys.

It is also hoped the thousands of cycling fans who are expected to line the streets will provide an economic boost to communities.

Lord Elis-Thomas, deputy minister for culture, tourism and sport, said: "The route will be an excellent showcase for Wales' amazing landscapes, which will also prove to be a challenge for the riders."

Image copyright SWpix
Image caption The peloton will pass through "beautiful" Welsh countryside

Hosting the fifth and sixth stages of the around-Britain race - part of the UCI Women's WorldTour series - is another boost to cycling in Wales.

And with 300,000 fans expected to line the roads of all six stages and a global TV and online audience of three million, the race could provide wider benefits.

Powys council leader Rosemarie Harris, said: "The tour attracts millions of viewers and thousands of visitors wherever it goes and will not only provide a huge economic boost to business, but inspire a new generation to take up this exciting sport."

Building on the success of hosting Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome in last year's Tour of Britain, Carmarthenshire will provide the setting for the crowning of this year's women's champion.

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Media captionThe men's Tour of Britain peloton raced past spectators in Carmarthen

The stage - on 15 June - will start with a lap of the recently-restored Carmarthen Velodrome and finish just after Pembrey's new, closed-road cycle circuit.

"We have designed this stage to test our star-studded field while at the same time showcasing Carmarthenshire's fantastic cycling facilities and gorgeous landscapes," said race director Mick Bennett.

Riders will pass through Nantgaredig, Llandeilo, Capel Hendre, Pontyberem and Trimsaran while Bethlehem Hill is likely to prove popular with spectators along the tough 79-mile (126 km) route.

British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said: "There's no welcome like a Welsh one and I know that the Welsh public will come out to support."

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Welsh rider Manon Lloyd said Carmarthenshire has some of the "toughest" roads in Britain

Great Britain rider Manon Lloyd, from Carmarthen, said racing in her hometown would be a "dream come true".

The 22-year-old, who cycled 126km with a fractured hip during last year's tour, said: "Getting the chance to [race] past my front door is incredibly exciting.

"Having family and friends out will give me that extra boost to push that little bit harder."

Image copyright SWpix
Image caption Crowds turned out to watch the tour depart Dolgellau last year
Image copyright SWPix
Image caption Last year's event passed through Conwy

Peter Hughes Griffiths, of Carmarthenshire council, said: "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."

Powys will stage, a day earlier, what organisers say is the hardest route ever designed in the race with more than 2,200m of climbs between Llandrindod Wells and Builth Wells.

The punishing 87-mile (140km) ride will also pass through Dolfor, Rhayader and Upper Chapel.

This year's Women's Tour begins in Suffolk on 10 June.

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