Oxford’s dreaming spires are set to provide a spectacular backdrop to the Halfords Tour Series when it visits the university city for the first time next month. Now entering its fourth year, the city-centre criterium series will also be making its first visit north of the border, with the opening round taking place in Kirkcaldy in Fife.
Two other new venues will be welcoming the event, which will pit Britain’s best domestic teams against each other, with Endura Racing likely to present a particularly strong challenge to Rapha Condor Sharps’s crown.
Those are Redditch in Worcestershire – home to headline sponsors Halfords – and Torquay in Devon. Returning venues are Aberystwyth, Canary Wharf, Colchester, Durham, Peterborough and Woking.
The Halfords Tour Series is expanding to 11 races this year, with one venue yet to be confirmed, the one that will host the season finale on 14th June. Details of where that will be taking place will be revealed when the 2012 series is formally launched next week.
The Oxford round, which will be held on Tuesday 22 May, takes place on a 1.4 kilometre circuit that is no stranger to road closures – the wide thoroughfare where the racing will place is given over each September to the two-day St Giles’ Fair, first established in nearby Walton Manor in the 13th Century.
A spokesman for Halfords Tour Series organisers Sweetspot, who are also behind the Tour of Britain, told road.cc: “We'll be confirming the full calendar on Thursday 19th at our national launch, when we'll unveil our venue for the Grand Final on Thursday 14th June.
“Oxford will be in there on Tuesday 22nd May for Round Three, and we're really looking forward to officially confirming this soon, but in the meantime local residents from the city and the wider county can look forward to a whole afternoon and evening of events and racing.
“The St Giles’ circuit certainly looks not only picturesque, but also once again very different to some of our other circuits,” he added; the width of the road means that spectators should get a great view of the action as the riders race up one side and down the other.
According to the Oxford Mail, the race will be preceded by one that pits the dark and light blues of Oxford and Cambridge Universities against each other – though anyone thinking of staging a protest should bear in mind that there are likely to be a good few rather large rowing types in the crowd.
Besides reigning champions Rapha Condor Sharp and Endura Racing, the Halfords Tour Series will also feature Great Britain’s four other UCI Continental teams – Node4 Giordana Racing, Team IG-Sigma Sport, Team Raleigh-GAC and Team UK Youth – as well as Team Hope Factory Racing, Metaltek-Scott, Team Herbalife and Cycle Premier-Kovert.
Four of the venues, still to be confirmed, will also host rounds of the Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix Series for Britain’s top female riders, won last year by Helen Wyman following a close battle with Lucy Garner, who went on to win the Junior Women’s title at the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen.
As stated above, the 2012 edition will be formally launched next week, but in the meantime the venue and dates of the rounds confirmed to date are as follows, with further details available on the Halfords Tour Series website.
Halfords Tour Series 2012 Provisional Dates
Kirkcaldy – Tuesday 15 May
Durham – Thursday 17 May
Oxford – Tuesday 22 May
Redditch – Thursday 24 May
Aberystwyth – Friday 25 May
Peterborough – Tuesday 29 May
Canary Wharf – Thursday 31 May
Torquay – Tuesday 5 June
Colchester – Thursday 7 June
Woking – Tuesday 12 June
TBA Grand Final – Thursday 14 June
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.