HONISTER Pass was today chosen as the iconic setting to unveil the Tour of Britain’s first visit to the heart of the Lake District.
Organisers gathered on the 356m-high route to reveal the path which 100 of the world’s top cyclists will tackle during stage two of the race.
The pass, which features gradients of up to 25 per cent, will provide competitors with their sternest test yet as they head from Carlisle to Kendal on Monday, September 16.
Setting off from the city centre at 11am, racers will snake down the county via Wigton, followed by a Yodel Sprint starting from outside St Kentigerns Church in Aspatria.
Moving next onto Cockermouth, another Yodel Sprint will follow at Dearham, near Maryport, before a third starting outside Whitehaven School.
They will then take on SKODA King of the Mountains climbs at Mockerkin, near Cockermouth, and Chestnut Hill, Keswick, in what is billed as one of the toughest stages of the entire 2013 tour.
After passing through Grasmere, Ambleside, Windermere and Crook, riders on the 186.6km route will have to summon the strength to climb Beast Banks, Kendal, which featured in the 2007 race.
Competitors face more than 3,000 metres of climbing during the stage with the first racers expected to cross the line at around 3.13pm.
North West professionals Matt Cronshaw, of Team IG Sigma Sport, and British Hill Climb Champion Jack Pullar, of Madison Genesis, joined Tour of Britain organisers and officials from across Cumbria to reveal details of the route.
The tour is returning to Cumbria after last year’s stage start in Carlisle, which attracted thousands of spectators.
It is estimated the event will generate up to £4 million for Cumbria’s economy.
David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “The Cumbrian stage will be a high point – in all senses – of this year’s tour.
“The excitement is building and Cumbrian schools and communities are already showing a great deal of interest.
“As the event gathers momentum, the benefits for the economy, the environment and people’s health all snowball as people show an interest in cycling.”
Lake District National Park Authority chief executive Richard Leafe said: “Hosting the most challenging mountain stage of the Tour of Britain in one of the UK’s most dramatic landscapes will provide a fantastic opportunity to position the Lake District as an exciting and awe inspiring place.
“It is also an excellent opportunity to encourage more people to take up cycling as a greener form of transport, whether they are a visitor or local, while enjoying the beauty and splendour that the Lake District National Park has to offer.”
And Richard Greenwood, Cumbria Tourism’s head of policy and research, added: “Hosting a full leg of the Tour Of Britain in Cumbria provides us with an excellent opportunity to showcase our beautiful county – the UK’s Adventure Capital – both within the UK and internationally.
“As a cycling destination Cumbria has so much to offer, with country lanes, quiet back roads and lots of National Cycle Network routes to explore, as well as more challenging off road routes over high fells and mountains.
“To have international cycling stars in our county for a full stage is a massive coup and will benefit the area in so many ways as well as showing the world what a beautiful place Cumbria is to explore on two wheels.”
Stage Two of the race is being organised in partnership with the Lake District National Park Authority, Cumbria County Council, Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria Tourism.
The Tour of Britain, the UK’s biggest professional cycle race and largest free-to-watch sporting event, starts in Peebles in the Scottish Borders on September 15.
Attracting Olympic, World Champion and Tour de France stage winners, it runs until September 22.