An OVO Energy Women’s Tour first: Stage Three of the 2018 race will retrace virtually the entire route used in the respective stage 12 months earlier, a 151-kilometre leg from Atherstone to Royal Leamington Spa.

Once again, the Warwickshire stage of the race will be longest of the entire tour, although the distance did little to deter attacks in 2017. Only half the field made it to Royal Leamington Spa in the same time as winner Chloe Hosking did last year, making this a crucial stage in the fight for the OVO Energy Green Jersey.

This will be the third time Atherstone has hosted a stage start, having also welcomed the OVO Energy Women’s Tour on day three of the 2016 race. That day’s winner into Stratford-upon-Avon, at the end of a stage in extremely challenging conditions, was Dutch rider Amy Pieters.

Atherstone

Atherstone is a picturesque market town situated on the old Roman Watling Street (A5) in the Borough of North Warwickshire.  Famous in Tudor days for making hats, Atherstone is now a busy market town popular with residents and visitors and a business base for Aldi, TNT and 3M among others.

Every Shrove Tuesday, local people join in the boisterous Ball Game, which has been played along the main street since the 13th century.   For a flavour of Atherstone’s heritage, head to the historic centre with its 18th century buildings such as Old Bank House (1711) and the 16th century timber-framed Old Swan.  The town also has a number of atmospheric coaching inns with a story to tell: the Red Lion was immortalised by George Eliot in her novel ‘Middlemarch’, while the Three Tuns (now Bar 43) is reputed to be where Henry Tudor stayed on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth. Merevale Church on the outskirts of the town was originally the gate chapel to the abbey.

Long Street is the main shopping area, with its mix of independent shops, cafes and pubs, as well as the local library and Atherstone Leisure Complex.  Just off Long Street is the town’s attractive Market Square, which will be the focus of attention for the start of Stage Three, when riders line up beside St Mary’s Church (founded in 1365) ahead of the start. Not far from the town centre is the Coventry canal which provides an ideal setting for a leisurely walk or a more energetic cycle.  Around 8,000 narrow boats navigate the flight of 11 locks every year.

Atherstone is an ideal base from which to explore the delights of North Warwickshire and beyond – whether it’s a bracing walk around one of the three country parks or a trip to the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.

For more information on attractions to visit and places to stay, go to www.visitnorthernwarwickshire.com.

Royal Leamington Spa

Royal Leamington Spa boasts dramatic Regency architecture, delightful parks and gardens and a unique mix of top quality shopping, with a fantastic range of independents alongside high street brands.

With an impressive array of entertainment venues, a rich choice of restaurants and some of the country’s best spas and salons, Royal Leamington Spa will keep visitors enthralled even once the race is over.

Wide boulevards, Georgian and Edwardian architecture and award-winning parks provide a stunning backdrop to this shopping paradise. Often described as ‘the best bits of London, all in a 10-minute walk’, Leamington town centre combines a treasure-trove of independent, specialist boutiques with all the national chains you would expect to find in a large city.

Just some of the highlights of Leamington include visits to its wonderful and award-winning Jephson Gardens, the Art Gallery & Museum is located opposite the gardens in the Royal Pump Rooms.  Or take advantage of the excellent retail offer, with its blend of major national retailers and unique independents.  The town’s cafes, bars and restaurants are rightly held in high regard, with all tastes and budgets catered for.

For more information, go to www.shakespeares-england.co.uk.