How the Tour of Britain route is designed

Meet Andy Hawes, the Tour of Britain’s route and technical director, who plays a key role in designing the race’s route.

Cycling Weekly spoke to him after the launch of the 2013 edition to see exactly how he comes up with the parcours for this country’s premier stage race.

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What processes do you go through to come up with the route?
First, before we do any deciding, we listen to where the local councils want to take the race. They’re the stakeholder of each stage, and they will have an idea of what they want to do. We will have a look at shortest and the longest routes between the stage towns, and usually one that will takes in more towns and countryside, depending on what we’re looking for. For example, we were spoilt for choice when it came to mapping out the Stoke to Llanberis stage [stage four]. In the end, we opted for the quickest route into North Wales, which is a new area for us. I think we get to Wrexham within 53 kilometres of the start.

That considered, how quickly do you come up with the route?
We had some of the routes before last year’s race, and within six weeks of the end of the 2012 race, we had rough routes of all the stages. We continuously try to be ahead of schedule; we certainly always have one eye on the following year’s race.

Who else in involved in route design?
Mick [Bennett, race director] comes on some routing trips but obviously he is very busy with race as a whole. So far this year he has accompanied me on trips to North Wales & Devon this year. To get a complete picture of how the stage will work, I also travel with Inspector Bob Brayshaw from West Yorkshire Police, who is the ACPO liaison with British Cycling, and Steve Baxter. Steve complies our risk assessments when out driving the routes.

If there is a Tour Ride [recreational event] involved in a stage other members of the technical team are involved. I also liaise with Mark Leyland [the race’s start manager] as he helps create the neutralised part of the route through to KM 0.

How did the idea of a summit finish at Haytor come about?
Devon County Council were keen to have a start in Sidmouth and then have a summit finish at Haytor. So we looked at the site, checked if the race will work there, and it did. Devon have been great once again, andthey’re helping us have a full road closure through the centre of Exeter [passed during the stage] and on the final climb. The final four kilometres to the finish will be fully closed, as will the two kilometres after it.

Jon Tiernan-Locke tamed Haytor in 2011

How difficult is it to include a time trial in the race?
There are a lot more road closures involved, as it also has to be run under a full closure. So to include one, we have to find the right roads, venue and partner. Luckily, this has all come together with Knowsley. We’re very fortunate to have them on board, and the Highways Agency have agreed to close off junction two of the M57 junction [which partly falls on the course] for five hours. This is unprecedented in the UK.

How do you assign where sprints and feed zones, for example, will be?
This comes when we drive the stages in their entirety for the second and third time, which normally happens at the start of June. We also compile the data for the race manual [road furniture, narrow bridges, cattlegrids etc] during these trips.

2012 Yodel Sprints competition winner Pete Williams

How many other times do you drive the course beforehand?
We have a final route reece four weeks before the start of the race to check everything. We do it in real time, so we drive a Sunday stage on a Sunday, a Monday stage on a Monday and at the same times the race will be on.

Of all the stages you’ve designed for the race so far, which one did you enjoy the most?
The one that I wanted to ride the most was that from Jedburgh to Dumfries in last year’s race. But I’d like to ride this year’s Cumbria stage [Carlisle to Kendal] and the Surrey stage [Epsom to Guildford] will be great a route for anyone.

Related links

Tour of Britain 2013 route revealed