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Tour of Britain brings back memories of Milk Race 50 years ago

With less than a month to go before the OVO Energy Tour of Britain cycle race gets underway, excitement is building in Cotswold towns and villages.

The Tour will pass through the Cotswolds on Saturday 9 September (Stage Seven). One of the locations the cyclists will visit is Stow-on-the-Wold, which played a key role during the 1967 Milk Race, the most prestigious cycling event in Britain at that time (pictured).

Stage Two of the 1967 Milk Race - from Swindon to Malvern - passed through Stow on 29 May. The town was an important point on the Tour because it acted as the breakpoint between two halves of the stage. This meant that Stow hosted a finishing line and a re-start, with the action in the town all taking place over a couple of hours in the middle of a very warm and sunny day.

Local resident Rob Brown recalls the events of 1967: "When I watched the 1967 Tour pass through Stow, I was 14 and a keen photographer. I took a number of action shots at the finish line of the team time trial section in the town, and the intensity over the closing yards was really something. The crowd was swept along with the drama but, unlike today's races, spectators were kept right off the road - partly because it remained open for traffic throughout!"

At that time, the Tour was a strictly amateur affair, as were many of the major sporting events at that time. Like now, the field of riders in 1967 included many competitors from overseas, but that did not stop a British rider - Les West - from claiming the overall victory.

Les is still a keen cyclist and remembers his racing days with great fondness: "I won the Tour of The Cotswolds for several years in the 1960s - the hilly terrain suited me and there was very little traffic on the roads. I used to stay with friends in Gloucester before the race and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

"The cycling events in my day were on a smaller scale compared with their modern day equivalents. Nowadays, it's great to see so much interest in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, and, indeed, cycling in general - I can't get over the number of participants and spectators."

The OVO Energy Tour of Britain is a major cycling event in the UK. It's hoped it will attract a large number of visitors to the Cotswolds, bringing an economic boost, increased overnight stays and the opportunity to showcase the Cotswolds.

Photo credit: Rob Brown

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