The gruelling hill climb up to the heights of Ditchling Beacon will be a ‘real challenge’ for many of the world’s best cyclists taking part in the Tour of Britain’s first ever visit to Sussex later this year.
More than 200,000 people turned out for the annual pedal-powered spectacle as it passed through Surrey last year, but never before has the route ventured into Sussex, taking in Haywards Heath and Ditchling.
“We are delighted to be bringing The Tour of Britain to Sussex and Brighton for the first time in the race’s modern history,” said race director Mick Bennett.
“Stage seven will be both picturesque and challenging, showcasing some beautiful landscapes in the South Downs to our live television audience.”
The Tour of Britain is the UK’s biggest professional cycle race and the country’s largest free-to-spectate live sporting event, taking place every September.
Mr Bennett told the Mid Sussex Times that the 800 foot challenge Ditchling Beacon poses could be a determining moment in the eight stage contest.
“Coming towards the end of the stage Ditchling Beacon is likely to be the key point in the stage, and perhaps even the entire tour if the standings are close,” he said.
“Either way it is sure to be unmissable.”
From the third highest peak of the South Downs it will be a downhill sprint all the way to the finish at Madeira Drive on Brighton seafront.
The Sussex stage is the penultimate leg of this year’s race and the world’s top riders will be tearing through the county’s towns, villages and greenery on Saturday, September 13.
The stage has been made possible thanks to West Sussex County Council, East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council which, having seen the huge crowds turn out in Surrey over the past two years wanted Sussex to capitalise on the post-Olympics success of cycling too.
Commenting on the Tour of Britain route announcement made this week, Louise Goldsmith, the leader of West Sussex County Council said: “I am delighted that we will welcome The Tour of Britain through West Sussex this September.
“It will be a great opportunity to showcase our beautiful county as a destination for cyclists and I am sure the event will also act as a tremendous boost to the local economy.”
Cllr Pru Moore, Mid Sussex cabinet member for Leisure and Sustainability, added: “To have the Tour of Britain coming to Mid Sussex this year is fantastic news for the area.
“Local youngsters will also have the chance to see Olympic heroes like Bradley Wiggins competing right on their doorstep.
“Hopefully a few will be inspired to take up cycling themselves because Mid Sussex is a beautiful place to ride a bike.”
However, the Tour of Britain is not just for cycling enthusiasts, it is also a celebratory occasion for the communities the cyclists pass through.
In previous years many places en route have revelled in patriotic fervour to encourage the champion British riders to success.
Mr Bennett added: “There is lots for residents of Sussex to look forward to, when the full, detailed route comes out in the summer that’s when they can start planning their garden parties, bunting and celebrations.
“There is nothing we love better than seeing villages en fete for the race!”