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Tour of Britain 2008 - Stage 3 Preview
By Staff
Date: 5/25/2008
Tour of Britain 2008 - Stage 3 Preview

Tour of Britain 2008 - Stage 3 Preview
Stage 3, Chard to Burnham-on-Sea: It may not be the Pyrenees or the Dolomites, but what this stage lacks in altitude it makes up for with terrain designed to test anaerobic thresholds with nasty steep hills...

By Mark Sharon
Editor at Large

The route of the 2008 Tour of Britain has been given some clarity with the release of details of one of the event’s key stages - Stage 3, 113 miles (185km) between Chard – Burnham-on-Sea which takes place on September 9.

Last year’s equivalent to this stage - Stage 2, Yeovilton - Taunton - proved so challenging that it drove a 10 minute wedge between the first 33 riders and the rest of the peloton, a gap that only two or three riders managed to bridge during the rest of the race. Such are the perils of a stage race, from which even the Grand Tours are not immune, and there is no guarantee that it won’t happen again this year. So what makes this stage such a danger?

It may not be the Pyrenees or the Dolomites, but what this stage lacks in altitude it makes up for with terrain designed to test anaerobic thresholds and bike-handling skills. No long grinds turning the race into a chess game, but nasty steep hills which give you little time to draw breath before another one is thrown at you. Add to this narrow roads, and twists and turns through ancient countryside and villages.

The scenery though is beautiful with the route taking the riders through Somerset (famous for the Glastonbury Festival and Cider) and into Devon for the first ever coastal finish of the event. The route traverses two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and a National Park. The riders may have little time to appreciate it though and had better allow time to buy postcards after the race if they want something to remember of it.

2007 Tour of Britain Photo © British Cycling

From Chard the first leg takes the peloton westward to Tiverton. En route the twisting country lanes of the Blackdown Hills AONB will provide the first E.O.N King of the Mountains challenge for the riders, Staple Hill at just 12km into the stage. By the time they hit Tiverton the riders will already be in Devon, and heading for South Molton, “Gateway to Exmoor”. South Molton, a picturesque market town with origins lie in Saxon times, is also the westernmost point of both the stage though not the race as a whole. That honour goes to Glasgow, the start of the stage 7.

A few miles north is the equally attractive village of North Molton where the race will encounter a grueling and tiring hill and the second E.ON King of the Mountains challenge, the North Molton Ridge at 94km.The reward for reaching the top of the hill will be stunning views across the Exmoor National Park. The race will then now be entering the second half of the route and heading back East. It will cross the open moorland of Exmoor and into the picturesque village of Withypool.

Withypool Photo courtesy

Withypool means “the pool in the river surrounded by willows”. Its historical associations include the fact that R.D.Blackmore wrote part of Lorna Doone in the bar of the Royal Oak Inn and during the 1940's General Eisenhower planned much of the D-Day landings in the Inn.

Unhappily there will be no time for a dip in aforementioned river, or grab a beer from the Inn, because a short, narrow, climb will take riders up on to the top of Exmoor. This will be familiar territory to last year’s protagonists as they revisit the village of Exford. The riders will follow part of last year’s route to Wheddon Cross the highest village on Exmoor at 250m (820ft) above Sea Level. This year, though, they will take a left towards Dunster, passing through the village of Timberscombe.

On reaching Dunster, just a few miles inland from the coast, the peloton will wind its way through this medieval village with Dunster Castle as a back drop. The route then starts back eastward parallel to the coast before angling sharply inland and into the Quantock Hills AONB, and the Cothelstone Hill KOM prime at 156km, by way of Williton and Bishops Lydeard.

2007 Tour of Britain Photo © British Cycling

From the last summit to the finish is about 30km or so. It’s hardly enough distance to make up the sort of damage the peloton suffered last year as Graham Jones, Route Director of the Tour of Britain, describes:

“In 2007 the South West stage of the Tour of Britain proved to be a decisive moment in the race and whilst it didn't decide the overall winner it certainly put an end to the aspirations of a large proportion of the field. I think that our visit to the South West on 9th September could have a similar effect. There are three classified King of the Mountains climbs, the first after only a handful of miles, and that sets the tone for the day. With 30km from the summit of the last climb to the finish there may be an opportunity for a small regrouping, but for many riders it may be too late to salvage their hopes of winning the 2008 Tour of Britain.”

With the Peloton back in Somerset, the riders will be on the home straight and on the stage’s flatter roads. At Bridgewater the peloton will have just 15km to go before the finish line at Marine Drive in Burnham-on-Sea, and a chance assess the day’s damage.

Large crowds lined the roads to watch the race in 2007 Photo © British Cycling

While riders might be regarding this stage with a certain amount of trepidation the local authorities will be looking for the sort of event they enjoyed last year with tens of thousands watching the race.

Jill Shortland, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “The Tour of Britain took Somerset by storm in 2007. This year’s route takes in even more of the region and promises to be a spectacular event. We are working with our supporting partners to make sure that as many local schools and members of the community as possible get involved and enjoy the festivities. Last year, Somerset benefited to the tune of £500,000 in additional visitor spend within the county on the race day alone1 and we hope that local businesses will welcome the event and help us in making sure it is a success again.”

The organisers are also looking for hundreds of volunteer race marshals. If you want to be part of the event then for further information click here and be a part of helping the race happen. 

For further information about the race and the places mentioned visit:
Tour of Britain:
South Molton:
Withypool Village
Exford Village:
Wheddon Cross:
Visit Somerset:

2008 Tour of Britain Announced
2007 Tour of Britain
4th Tour of Britain - Race Preview
4th Tour of Britain - Prologue Report
4th Tour of Britain - Prologue Interviews
4th Tour of Britain - Stage 1
4th Tour of Britain - Stage 2
4th Tour of Britain - Stage 3
4th Tour of Britain - Stage 4
4th Tour of Britain - Stage 5
Tour of Britain - London Grand Prix Young Guns

Stage Time Estimates:
0km Chard (START) 10:00
12km KOM Staple Hill 10:30
28km Hemyock 10:50
36km Willand 11:00
46km Tiverton 11:20
65km Witheridge 11:45
82km South Molton 12:10
94km KOM North Molton Ridge 12:30
106km Exford 12:45
125km Dunster 13:15
135km Williton 13:30
150km Bishops Lydeard 13:55
156km KOM Cothelstone Hill 14:00
168km Bridgewater 14:20
174km Dunball 14:30
178km Huntspill 14:35
185km Burnham-an-Sea (FINISH) 14:45

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