With less than a month to go before the OVO Energy Tour of Britain cycle race gets underway, excitement is building in Cotswold towns and villages along the route which the competitors will follow on Saturday 9 September (Stage Seven).

One of the key locations which the cyclists will visit is Stow-on-the-Wold, which played a key role during the 1967 Milk Race, the most prestigious cycling event in Britain at that time.

Stage Two of the 1967 Milk Race – from Swindon to Malvern – passed through Stow on 29 May. The town was an important point on the Tour because it acted as a breakpoint with this stage was divided into two parts, with Stow as the breakpoint. This meant that Stow hosted a finishing line and a re-start, with the action in the town all taking place over a couple of hours in the middle of a very warm and sunny day. To add to the drama, the morning session beginning at Swindon was a team time trial, and resulted in the exotic sight (for those days) of a winning Soviet Union team speeding along the Fosse Way and taking the honours in Stow.

Local resident Rob Brown recalls the events of 1967:

“When I watched the 1967 Tour pass through Stow, I was 14 and a keen photographer. I took a number of action shots at the finish line of the team time trial section in the town, and the intensity over the closing yards was really something. The crowd was swept along with the drama but, unlike today’s races, spectators were kept right off the road – partly I suppose because it remained open for traffic throughout!

“At that time, the Tour was a strictly amateur affair, as were many of the major sporting events at that time. Like now, the field of riders in 1967 included many competitors from overseas, but that did not stop a British rider – Les West – from claiming the overall victory. “

Les WestLes (pictured left) is still a keen cyclist and remembers his racing days with great fondness:

“I won the Tour of The Cotswolds for several years in the 1960’s – the hilly terrain suited me and there was very little traffic on the roads. I used to stay with friends in Gloucester before the race and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

“The cycling events in my day were on a smaller scale compared with their modern day equivalents. Nowadays, it’s great to see so much interest in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, and, indeed, cycling in general – I can’t get over the number of participants and spectators.

“I have never lost my love for the sport and the Cotswolds. Even now I still get out on my bike regularly with my local club – and I enjoy taking part in the annual time trial which takes place in the Charlbury area in September.”

You can find out more about Stage Seven from Hemel Hempstead to Cheltenham, through the Cotswolds, including an interactive stage map and downloadable ETA timetable, by clicking here.

Milk Race

The 1967 Milk Race in Stow-on-the-Wold © Rob Brown