Cycling / Tour de France: Hills and sprints set to attract crowds

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The Independent Online
SWEAT or speed are the main choices for the keen observer of the tour. Apart from the start and finish, the biggest concentrations of spectators are expected to see the riders slog their way up the six hill climbs spread over the two days racing in Britain.

The thrill and speed of the sprint are also popular as riders chase for bonus points three times on each day.

Ditchling Beacon, near Brighton, comes at the end of the first day's racing and the ascent to the 813ft summit is probably the best-known hill climb for cyclists in southern Britain. The riders are expected to take about four minutes to get to the top and the steepness of the hill will mean they are likely to spread out to take the climb rather than flash past in a group.

Brighton is also the venue for another hill climb - as well as the finish at about 4pm in the afternoon. Elm Grove, a a Category 3 climb, one category above Ditchling Beacon, is tackled twice as it is on the town's finishing circuit. Spectators are advised to take their places at noon ready for the race to go past at about 3.30pm.

Other hill climbs are Blackhorse Hill, 10 miles out of Dover near Hythe (11.25am) and White Hill on the A28 near Ashford (12.33pm). The most popular sprint venue is expected to be at Maresfield, Sussex, (2.51pm) where the riders bear down a long straight to a sprint before taking a right angle corner at speed.

The day's other sprints take place in the centre of Ashford, along the inner ring road (12.48pm) and at Tunbridge Wells where the sprint will be up Mount Pleasant Road at 2.11pm.

One other novel spectator point is at the feeding zone, where the riders pick up supplies from their support wagons. On the first day, the feeding zone is at Sissinghurst, Kent, at 1.28pm

Dover has organised 15,000 extra car parking spaces in anticipation of more than 50,000 visitors for the start of the race at Dover Castle. Brighton has park and ride facilities from a number of signposted destinations.

Thursday, the second day's racing, begins and ends in Portsmouth. Because of the circular nature of the 113-mile stage, many fans will decide to stay in the naval city and watch both ends of the race.

The best vantage points in the city could be along Farlington Avenue, a climb for the riders in the morning (at 11.10am) as they leave for rural Hampshire and a steep descent on their return at 3pm when speeds of up to 60mph are expected.

Rolling countryside and pretty villages make much of the route attractive for spectators and there are BR stations, all served by trains to and from Waterloo, close to the course at Winchester, Andover, Basingstoke, Alton, Havant and Petersfield.

More than 26,000 parking places have been provided in Portsmouth but congestion is likely and all spectators are advised to be in position as early as possible before the race begins.

A hill climb at Bishop's Waltham comes at 11.48am after the entourage has passed through the village of Southwick, allied HQ during the Normandy invasion 50 years ago.

The day's feeding zone is at Newfound, just past Andover, while the sprints will take place in Winchester (12.14pm), Basingstoke (1.26pm) and finally at Rowlands Castle (2.56pm).

(Photograph and maps omitted)