After success in the Tour de France, Olympics and the Tour of Britain comes news of a brand new cross-channel route to satisfy the growing army of cyclists keen to follow in the wake of Wiggins, Armitstead, Cavendish and Tiernan-Locke.
The ‘Petit Tour de Manche’ – a 428 km (265 mile) cycle route linking Dorset with Normandy, Brittany and Jersey – is one of three new cycling routes (mostly off-road or on quiet lanes) being created as part of the CYCLE WEST project. The £6.8 million European initiative is designed to link the two nations, capitalise on the fast-growing popularity of cycling, and open up sustainable tourism opportunities ‘off the beaten track’.
The challenge for many tackling the new route will be to complete the whole 265 miles. Regular ferry services between Poole, Weymouth, Saint-Malo and Cherbourg, serviced by Brittany and Condor Ferries, will provide the links in between.
But the route can also be ridden in ‘bite-sized’ pieces for either a day or weekend at a time – and that will certainly mean a big boost for cycling in Dorset, where there are 45 miles (73.7 kms) of quiet roads and lanes now signposted.
The ‘Petit Tour de Manche’ is one of three routes that make up the 6.8 million CYCLE WEST project. The 440km (265 mile) Velodyssey Devon-Bretagne – a ‘there and back’ itinerary from Ilfracombe to Nantes – was officially opened on 5 September 2012, and the larger 700km (420 mile) circular Tour de Manche will be completed by summer 2013.
The opportunities for serious cyclists don’t stop there. The new routes link into the European cycling network, allowing you travel down through Spain or as far east as Ukraine.
Developing the new routes and marketing them to the growing army of cycling tourists represents a huge investment in cycle tourism across Europe, which is estimated by Sustrans to grow to around £14 billion in the next few years. While the UK has seen a massive surge in popularity in cycling, we still lag way behind our Gallic neighbours: 24 million of them cycle regularly and more than seven million cycling holidays are taken annually. In Britain, fewer than a million holidays currently involve cycling, but that number is growing fast.
A new website is now live, providing details of each section of the route, with tips and hints on where to go and what to see along the way, maps and GPS tracks. Information on where to stay along the route will also be available on the site soon. To access this detailed information visit: www.cycle-west.com or www.tourdemanche.com. Information on the English section of the Velodyssey route can be found at www.velodyssey.com.
Photo: Tim Pestridge