All the information you need to know about the race - plus, 4 days of events in Oundle before the start on 7 May

With less than three weeks to go until the inaugural Friends Life Women’s Tour – the insurer was announced as sponsor last week – organisers have put the race manual online for fans to download, and it’s essential reading if you’re planning on watching any of the stages. There will also be four days of activities in Oundle to coincide with the race starting there on Wednesday 5 May.

Spanning 57 pages, the race manual contains everything you need to know to follow the debut edition from its start in Northamptonshire to the finish in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, including route maps of each stage plus the start and finish locations, as well as detailed timetables of the racing. You can download it here.

Stage 1 start town Oundle in Northamptonshire will be hosting four days of activities beginning with a Wellness Day on Sunday 4 May ahead of the race itself getting under way on the Wednesday.

That’s followed by an Activity Day on the Bank Holiday Monday then, on Tuesday, the eve of the Friends Life Women’s Tour beginning, the town centre will host sprint races as well as live music, food stalls and entertainment, as well as a talk from acclaimed cycling writer William Fotherinhgham, who will be speaking about his latest book, Racing Hard.

The talk takes place at 7.45pm on Tuesday 6 May at St Peter’s Church, with tickets costing £7, and you can find more information here.

Announcing Friends Life as sponsor last week, Hugh Roberts, chief executive of race organisers SweetSpot, said: "We are delighted to be working alongside Friends Life for The Women's Tour this May and we are looking forward to working with them to ensure that women's cycling gains the platform it deserves and hope this partnership grows ever stronger in the future.”

"This partnership is very much an affirmation of what we wanted for The Women's Tour when we set out on this journey. Securing the support of such an established blue chip organisation, will raise the profile of not only women's cycling but women's sport in general within the UK - Friends Life are the perfect fit.”

Andy Briggs, group chief executive of Friends Life, added: "We are delighted to be the main sponsor of the first ever Women's Tour and we are proud to support cycling and women's sport in general. The Women's Tour is an ideal partner for Friends Life as we continue to build our brand.

"Our business is about developing financial fitness through each stage of life whether it's saving for retirement or financially protecting families. We fully support what the Women's Tour is trying to achieve - there are many other great activities connected to the race giving opportunities for more people to get involved in sport.”

There will be highlights of the Friends’ Life Women’s Tour on ITV4 at 9pm each evening from Wednesday 7 to Sunday 11 May.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.