World class cyclists will race through the South Molton Pannier Market in September – the first time in the history of the modern Tour of Britain that it is has been routed through a building.

Stage Two of the race will take place on Monday September 3, starting in the UK’s newest town, Cranbrook, in East Devon and finishing in Barnstaple, North Devon.

The race is being hosted by Devon County Council, supported by East Devon District Council and North Devon Council, and working with Cranbrook Town Council and Barnstaple Town Council.

Devon has a long history of hosting some of the most and exciting and challenging stages of the Tour of Britain, and this year will be no exception.

In scenes to capture the spirit of the 2017 Tour de France, which travelled through Paris’s Grand Palais, crowds are set to pack out the Victorian market house to cheer the riders on in what will be one of the showpieces of this year’s Stage Two. It’s just one part of what promises to be some of the most unpredictable, explosive and exciting stages of the whole race.

Starting in Cranbrook, the race covers 174km (108miles) of stunning countryside across East Devon, Mid Devon and North Devon before finishing in the historic estuary town of Barnstaple.

The stage will travel through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, skirt along the western borders of Exmoor National Park, visit the North Devon Biosphere Reserve and take in the stunning coastal road from Combe Martin to Saunton.

From the dropping of the start flag, the route offers the riders no respite.  From Cranbrook, Chineway Hill in Ottery St Mary sets the scene for the first SKODA King of the Mountains climb, just a few kilometres into the race.

Racers will then pass through Honiton, Ufculme and into Mid Devon racing down Tiverton High Street.

The race will then travel into North Devon, through the Pannier Market in South Molton and into Barnstaple before embarking on a 70km loop, only to return to the town for the grandstand stage finish. 

The loop takes in the communities of Bratton Fleming and Combe Martin, where the race first touches the North Devon coast.

It then continues on the coast road to Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, where the riders will feel they may almost be riding onto the beach –  Croyde and Saunton Sands,  Braunton and back to Barnstaple.

This North Devon section will include a sprint close to Castle Hill and the last real test for the riders, the brutal 23 per cent incline of Challacombe Hill just 20 kilometres from the finish.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon Country Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management said: “Devon is synonymous with the Tour, this will be the 12th time in 10 years it has come to Devon, and each and every time the crowds have been treated to a thrilling stage and something different.

“2018 will be no exception – this year the race will go through South Molton’s Pannier Market, the first time in the modern era the Tour has been routed through a building.

“But that isn’t all; there’s Challacombe Hill, with a leg-burning incline just 20 kilometres from the finish which will separate the contenders from the champions.”

Race Director Mick Bennett said: “We are delighted to be returning to Devon and once again working with our partners at Devon County Council for Stage Two of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain.  We know that the race always receives a fantastic reception from fans in the South West and know that this will be the same this September.

“The route that we have jointly designed with Devon County Council is very exciting and will ensure a thrilling finish for spectators in Barnstaple as we return to a part of Devon that the race has not visited for a number of years.”

Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing at North Devon Council, Councillor Brian Moores, said: “It’s great news for the area that the Tour of Britain is coming to North Devon and I’m delighted that we are supporting it. It really is an event for all ages and something that shouldn’t be missed, so come along and enjoy the action. I hope that it will inspire more people to get out there and have a go at cycling, not only is it great exercise but what better way to enjoy the beautiful area of North Devon.”

Cllr Tom Wright, East Devon District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment said: “It is very appropriate that Stage Two will be starting in Cranbrook. Cranbrook has been selected to be part of a Healthy New Town initiative and the Tour of Britain should encourage residents to ‘get on their bikes’ to enjoy our wonderful countryside and the  network of cycle routes created as part of the transport infrastructure linking the west end of our beautiful district with Exeter.”

Cranbrook Town Council Chairman, Cllr Kevin Blakey said: “This is great news for Cranbrook. I am sure that everyone in the town will be delighted that, as one of Britain’s Healthy New Towns, we have been chosen as the starting point for the second stage of one of the biggest sporting events of the year. We look forward to welcoming everyone involved in the Tour, and the spectators who will be sure to give the competitors a rousing send-off.”

Mayor of Barnstaple, Cllr Ian Roome said: “I am over the moon that the Tour of Britain stage finish will be in Barnstaple, and that the route takes the race through the town along the way as well!  The whole community will want to engage with this exciting event for Barnstaple, and it is a wonderful destination for anyone following the race.  Come along for the weekend, watch the exciting race finish and see what we have to offer – wonderful heritage, lots of leisure activities and places to eat, and all around us the beautiful North Devon coastline.”