IN just over a week the Friends Life Tour of Britain will follow a route through Bucks designed by a man who grew up cycling along those very roads.
It’s not a task that many of us consider, but someone has to tell the best cyclists in the world where to go and for the past three years that someone has been Andy Hawes, High Wycombe born and bred.
He said: “I was a member of High Wycombe Cycling Club for many years and my whole family still live in High Wycombe, within a five-mile radius of the town centre.
“I first worked on the Tour in 2006. I used to take a week off work to help organise the volunteers at the King of the Mountain and sprints.
“I made myself known to the route director and started working with him very closely on the technical side of things.
“I think I was just in the right place at the right time.
“This year will be the third Tour of Britain I’ve designed and I’ve also designed the routes for the Women’s Tour, all five stages, and the Tour Series circuits through towns.”
Once the start and finish locations have been identifies, Hawes says he simply draws a straight line between the two spots on a map and then bends the line in and out to attain certain distances.
There is no minimum distance, but the daily average can’t exceed 180km and the maximum on any given day is 240km.
He said: “You want to avoid major roads so the impact on traffic is minimal, and you have to consider the spectators and good viewing spots when locating King of the Mountain and sprints.
“Looking at the route through the Chilterns, I wanted to include some of the iconic locations.
“Chinnor Hill [the first KoM site] is a classic hill in the Chilterns, an iconic climb that has been used in a lot of races.
“Everyone who cycles around here will have been up it at one time or another so, for me, coming from the area and knowing it as I do, it instantly sprang out as an obvious choice.
“The other King of the Mountain is at Nashleigh Hill in Chesham. It has a footpath going all the way up it and then opens up into a wide space that is perfect for viewing.
“And there is a sprint in Princes Risborough, finishing on the B4444 just outside where the Conservative Club was.
“You need a suitable run up and a nice open road. I also try to place sprints outside schools so the community can get involved.”
At 205.6km, Stage Six from Bath to Hemel Hempstead is the second longest of the 2014 Tour.
The peloton sets off at 10.15am on Friday, September 12, and is due to reach Chinnor Hill at about 2.30pm, passing through Princes Risborough and Great Missenden before beginning the Nashleigh Hill climb about an hour later.
Hawes said: “This Tour is a lot tougher than in 2013, there is a lot more climbing and it’s certainly a lot longer – the last two stages before London are both over 200km.
“But you want to put the long stages near the end to keep the race alive as long as possible.
“The worst thing would be having them earlier and being in a position to announce the winner before the Tour even reaches London.
“With a local bias though, I think Stage Six is my favourite.
“It goes over roads I’ve trained and raced on for many years and there’s no place like home.
“There are going to be tens of thousands of people lining the roads and I know High Wycombe Cycling Club said on their Facebook page that Kop Hill will be a sea of yellow and blue.
“For a former club of mine, that would be fantastic to see.”
Hawes is also predicting a dramatic finish as the peloton race down the A4146 into Hemel at speeds in excess of 60kmh.
He said: “I think there’ll be a bunch sprint at the end. Nashleigh Hill is 14km from the end and that is plenty of time for the teams to organise themselves.
“Then the last three kilometres is pan flat, which is ideal territory for a bunch finish.”
The races runs from September 7-14, from Liverpool to London.
Sir Bradley Wiggins is the defending champion and will be back to defend his title.
Also confirmed is Marcel Kittel, who the Tour de France stage finishing on The Mall and Commonwealth Games gold winner Alex Dowsett.
The full list of riders will be announced tomorrow.