The Women’s Tour: Stage 3

Technical Guide

Stage 3 (larger, interactive map)

Stage 3 profile (larger)

For the remainder of the race the Tour moves into East Anglia, a place of flat landscapes and expansive marshlands that may seem oddly familiar to the Dutch riders – in fact, a Dutch influence can be perceived here, in the architecture and even in some of the local sayings which are heard in the Netherlands but rarely in other parts of the United Kingdom. Like the Netherlands, the hills along the Stage 3 parcours are low, so the roads go straight up rather than around hairpins – which means some sections could turn out to be a lot steeper than some riders might have expected. Suffolk is known for its rolling fields and beautiful villages, while Essex has an unfair reputation: it’s not all grey concrete as some think and is largely rural, with some beautiful landscapes, stunning villages and some of the oldest buildings in England.

The stage gets underway on Undercliff Road in Felixstowe, heading first south along the coast onto Sea Road before taking a 90-degree right 1.2km from the start line – there are white lines and a few drain covers which may be slippery if wet, but with the peloton still moving at low speed and plenty of space, problems are easily avoided. 0.2km later, another easy right takes the race onto Langer Road which the riders will follow for 0.7km to Garrison Road, then 0.26km afterwards a more complicated right with two traffic islands leads onto Orwell Road. Orwell Road continues for 0.74km before the riders turn left through the narrow entrance (pinch point) of Hamilton Road. 0.67km ahead, left at a roundabout takes them onto High Road which carries the race out of Felixstowe and into Trimley St. Mary. Just the other side of the village is a roundabout; here the riders turn right and, 0.32km after the turn by a layby, arrive at the end of the neutral zone.

Just after the neutral zone ends is a roundabout where the riders will cross the A14 – being so close to the coast, there may be strong crosswinds here. They go straight ahead, then follow narrow roads bending first left and then right to Kirton; 2.28km after Kirton a left turn leads onto Chapel Road (look out for the hawthorns overhanging the road on the right – hawthorn twigs account for a good percentage of all punctures) and leads to Brightwell at 7.1km. 1.24km ahead, the race turns right again at a junction, joining the A1093: the large number of black rubbery skidmarks on the road here suggests the junction can be slippery when wet. Just past Brightwell the race turns right once more and follows Newbourne Road (likely into a headwind) for 0.6km, then around a left-hand bend followed by a right that may be dangerous due to sand and gravel collecting on the road. 1.44km later at a crossroads, the riders go left and join a road that starts straight but then takes a series of fast bends to skirt around Martlesham.

For much of the stage up until this point, the riders have been travelling north. Due to the prevailing wind blowing in from the coast, this makes it likely that they’ve had to deal with crosswinds which can split the bunch as small groups of riders work together and stronger groups (especially those made up of riders who have practiced riding in echelons) get ahead of weaker groups. For the next 10km they’ll ride west, which means a tailwind provides trailing riders with an opportunity to catch up with leaders. The section starts where the parcours crosses Top Street, beginning with a 2.24km uphill stretch that includes a bridge over the A12 and a short section at 6%; 1.2km from the bridge, the route turns left and heads south through forest for 1.2km before a right turn where puddles often collect after rain. This takes the race onto the A1214 at Kesgrave, which has grown from a village to a small town and now merges into Ipswich; the road is straight and fast for 6.93km.

Intermediate sprint, 19km: starts on the A1214 at Kesgrave High School. The road is straight and smooth, making for high speeds through the sprint.

Beyond the sprint are four roundabouts, and the final part of this section leads into Ipswich – with an average descent of 3%, it’s a fast road.

Around the marina at Ipswich (image: Google)

Around the marina at Ipswich (image: Google)

At 24,8km, in the centre of Ipswich, the riders turn left onto Argyle Street; it’s a difficult junction with the high approach speed, road surface, drain covers and a traffic island positioned just to the left of the centre – ie, right in the middle of a racing line around the corner – all coming together to make it a hazardous section, and riders will need to take care. Argyle Street becomes Grimwade Street and descends in a straight line for 0.55km, ending at another technical left – there’s a drain cover on the left and metal railings on the right, making it a dangerous junction. 0.13km further ahead, a right at a roundabout leads along a narrow street (called Coprolite Street, for some reason) that comes out at the marina, where traditional wooden wherries can be seen moored alongside multi-million Euro yachts. The right turn at the end isn’t difficult, nor are the smooth cobbles it leads onto; however, the road around the corner is really only a path and would be very tight for two riders side-by-side – so anyone who made a mistake on the corner and ended up far back in the peloton will find it all but impossible to get back to the front. Fortunately, the section is only 0.7km long; it ends with a left turn onto a bridge. 0.4km from the bridge, a right at a roundabout takes the riders onto a fast road that leads for 1.8km out of Ipswich to another bridge and a roundabout where they turn left, following the B1456 along the western side of the estuary.

QOM, 31.9km: After passing under the Orwell Bridge (more than 43m high, it’s a landmark that can’t be missed) the riders arrive 1km later at the first QOM, marked by a small carpark on the left. The end is 1.3km later, around the right-hand bend by the  sign for Shotley, Holbrook and the Royal Hospital School. During the 1.3km the climb gains 37m, making the average gradient 2.8%; the steepest section just around the right-hand bend is 6%.

Just past the end of the QOM the route reaches a crossroads and continues straight to join the B1080 heading south to Holbrook.

QOM, 35.8km: beginning less that 6km from the first QOM, the second QOM starts by three cottages on the right and leads into a sweeping right-hand bend marked by white railings along both sides. The end comes 0.7km later at the Royal Hospital School after the road has curved left and then right again. Gain is 23m, making the average gradient 3.3%; the steepest section is at the bend between the railings and reaches more than 7%.

The B1080 continues south-west, passing through Stutton at 37.4km and then Brantham (with a climb similar to the second QOM to get there). Just ahead is another technical section – a fast descent leading into Cattawade, dropping from 35m to sea level in 1.3km, takes in two bends and a roundabout. The first bend is a very fast sweeping right, the second is a tighter right; the roundabout comes 200m after the second bend. Three bridges (two over water, the second marking the Suffolk/Essex border; one over a railway) later, the race passes Manningtree, which claims to be the smallest town in England (its claims aren’t particularly convincing) and which was once the base of operations of Matthew Hopkins, with Witchfinder General who was responsible for the deaths (by hanging rather than burning at the stake, as the horror films like to claim) of 300 people, mostly women, in the late 17th Century. At Lawford, 46km from the start and following a climb from sea level to 35m in 1.4km, the riders take the first exit at a roundabout onto the B1352; 1.25km later a right turn finds the B1035 heading first south (crosswinds are possible here), then south-east for 2.1km to a gravelly left turn onto a narrower road leading to Bradfield Heath and the riders follow the road as it bends to the right before arriving at Wix after 55.62km, as soon as they’re in the village an easy left carries the race south-east to Great Oakley at 58.7km. Here, the road bends gradually through 180 degrees before heading north-west on narrow lanes with some small climbs to a junction among a collection of houses too few to be considered a village in its own right, being designated an outlying part of Great Oakley instead. The riders turn left here onto Clacton Road and follow it south-east to a junction at 64.4km then turn right, avoiding the traffic island just around the corner. Now on Chapel Lane, they head towards Thorpe Green and then into Thorpe-le-Soken.

Intermediate sprint, 68.9km: taking place on the B1033 at Thorpe-le-Soken.


So far along the parcours we’ve seen beautiful villages and grand stately homes. This stage visits Jaywick, the most deprived community in England (image: Peter Eastern CC BY-SA 3.0)

After the sprint, a tight left takes the race north and out of the village; 1.29km later a gravelly right leads onto a road with several small hills en route for Kirby-le-Soken and, at 74.3km, a fast right onto a narrower road. The following section, known as Shumm’s Hill, features a wide right-hand bend followed by a tighter left made technical by the presence of a gravel track leading off to the right – loose gravel on the road can cause tyres to lose their grip. Once round the bends the riders arrive at Kirby Cross and negotiate a staggered right/left junction with mini roundabouts at both turns, then continue south to Great Holland at 75.9km; the road bends to the right here before entering a fast descent that reaches a point below sea level just before arriving at a T-junction at 79.5km. Right leads to a bridge over a railway; 1.29km from the bridge a fast left takes the road south towards Great Clacton, the roundabout at 82km marking the point at which the race reaches the town. They follow the road to a T-junction and turn right, coming to a large roundabout 0.4km ahead and continue straight ahead and passing through an urbanised area. A patch of woodland on the left comes just before a left turn at a mini roundabout at 86.3km, leading into Jaywick, a peculiar village made up of cheaply constructed, prefabricated chalets that became permanent dwellings and which now experiences some of the worst deprivation in England – and the site of the discovery of the oldest man-made object ever found in Great Britain, a fragment of a paleolithic spear.

At 88.5km, the riders turn left to leave Jaywick and head east alongside the airfield into Clacton-on Sea – from the turn, there is 1.2km along a very gently curving, flat road to the finish line on Marine Parade West – unless a solo rider managed to get away and stay out in front, expect a bunch sprint.

Stage report (when available)