Great Tour races through

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The riders' support vehicle carrying the spare bikes, chases after the riders in South Underclliff who had raced ahead of our photographer.

A charity cycle ride passed swiftly through Rye on Monday night / Tuesday morning. Two cyclists (Hugh Roberts and Robin Young) had departed from the Isle of Wight on Saturday and the duo are cycling 6,700km around the coast of Britain over 64 days.

On Monday they were cycling from Brighton to Rye, and on Tuesday from Rye to Broadstairs – staying overnight locally in a motorhome.

On Monday, July 6 they cycled from Brighton to Rye, 92.6km, starting at 8:30am from outside the British Airways i360 viewing tower, and finishing around 3pm opposite Moon Marine in Rock Channel in Rye.

On Tuesday they cycled from Rye to Broadstairs, 106km, just missing our photographer – who did snap their support vehicle (above) – starting at 8:30am from wherever their overnight “home” had parked and finishing at 4pm off Joss Gap Road in Broadstairs.

Cancelled races inspired ride

This “Great Tour” awareness and fundraising cycle ride was set up as a result of having seen the Tour Series (May), Women’s Tour (June) and Tour of Britain (September) postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Organisers SweetSpot Group decided to do something on behalf of the world of cycling in the UK to contribute to health and charities and causes in the UK.

Inspired by the Great Tour event that took place in 2010 and 2015, SweetSpot founder and managing director Hugh Roberts and long-time friend Robin Young are re-creating the 6,700 kilometre, 64 day ride, filling the gap between when the Women’s Tour and Tour of Britain should have taken place.

The Great Tour will aim to raise awareness and funds for chosen health charities and causes in 2020 ahead of the full event launch in 2021. Past editions of the Great Tour in 2010 and 2015 have supported a range of health charities, including the Prostate Cancer Charity, MacMillan and Anthony Nolan.

The awareness ride will also have the support of partners Ascot Lloyd, a leading UK independent financial advice firm. Commenting on their support Nigel Stockton, CEO of Ascot Lloyd, said: “We’re really proud to be partners of the Great Tour as it is raising money for some amazing causes while also providing some vital support for our coastal communities.”

September target for long ride

The Great Tour got underway from Ryde on the Isle of Wight on Saturday, July 4, with Hugh and Robin and the participants adhering to the prevailing social distancing guidelines on their journey, supported by a small team equipped with ŠKODA support vehicles.

The team should complete their 64 day, anti-clockwise, coastal circumnavigation by bike on Saturday, September 5, marking when the nation would have been gearing up to celebrate cycling via the eight day Tour of Britain professional race.

The Women’s Tour has recently raising money for Breast Cancer Now and Mind through a virtual race – the ŠKODA V-Women’s Tour – while in September the Tour of Britain will mark its planned race week (6-13 September) with its own fundraising effort.

From 2021 the Great Tour ride will be the fundraising flagship of the Great Tour, for which charitable status is being sought. This annual event will raise money to support projects or other charities in community, health and environmental charities and causes – all of which are consistent with the Great Tour’s ethos.

Covid has hit professional cycling

Commenting on the ride, Hugh Roberts said: “We now see this ride as preparation for a full launch in 2021. Professional cycling’s voice has been largely choked by Covid-19 and I wanted to do something on behalf of cycling to say thank you to the NHS. I hope that people will get behind our challenge.

“We had always envisioned the Great Tour to be the bridge for our sponsors between the Women’s Tour and the Tour of Britain, but thought that we would have to cancel the Great Tour completely, as well as the Women’s Tour and the Tour of Britain.

“However as plans to open the country up again grew, and the date of 4 July was highlighted we began to think that maybe fate was telling us to go ahead, ride in a very small group, follow distancing guidelines and do some good at a time that really matters.

“We put together a plan for Robin and I to ride the route and hope that as restrictions are eased we can invite celebrities and fellow cyclists to join us. We will try to make safe contact as far as we can with local community charities on the route, hoping to meet some people we can support in future years.”

Future plans for Great Tour

The Great Tour had originally been intended to take place in summer 2020 to mark the tenth anniversary of the first circumnavigation, but plans had to be put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused the postponement of SweetSpot’s professional races. Plans for the event to return as an annual mass participation fundraising ride will now switch to summer 2021.

From next year the Great Tour will become a recognised and waymarked cycle route around the whole coastline of Britain with the official start and finish and waypoint number one located in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

“Coastal communities need support” continued Hugh. “Their economies have been battered particularly through the loss of income from tourism. We aim to document the route and formalise it so that amateur cyclists can ‘collect’ legs for themselves in the future.

“If that brings more business for cafes, restaurants and accommodation providers on the route and we have helped to do that, then I think this challenge will have succeeded.”

Robin Young adds: “When Hugh invited me to join this challenge I hadn’t been on a bike in three years, during which I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After six weeks training my diabetes is better controlled than it has ever been.

Never losing sight of the sea

“I have no idea what 64 consecutive days of long rides will do to me. Frankly, I’m pretty nervous, but finding what I can do is part of the attraction. The main draw for me though is to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to launch something really special. When the ride is done, I’m looking forward bringing the 2021 event to life for many people.”

Following the coastline as closely as possible by bike, and never losing the sight, the sound, the smell of the sea or sense of the sea, the Great Tour route takes in 6,700 kilometres of roads, cycle paths and green lanes around the country in a celebration of Britain’s coastline.

More information about The Great Tour can be found at thegreattour.co.uk and you can find out more and donate via our JustGiving page.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

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