THE Tour of Britain will be bigger and better than ever when it returns to Mid Devon in early September – that’s the view of two cyclists given a preview of some of the route, which will start in Exmouth and finish in Exeter.

Professional rider Chris Opie, of Rapha Condor JLT, and former pro Colin Lewis previewed the course last Friday.

The Devon Stage, hosted by Devon County Council and sponsored by South West Highways, will be Stage Five of the race and will cover 110miles (177km) of the county – with a sprint stage through Crediton.

The Friends Life Tour of Britain 2014 will feature its biggest ever line-up of top tier UCI Pro Teams in the 19-team field, led by Team Sky, who won last year’s Tour with Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Opie, from Cornwall, said: “It’s a fantastic route for this year’s Devon stage. Racing through the county in last year’s Tour of Britain was a definite highlight – the support on the roadside was, for me, unrivalled. The atmosphere on Haytor was really special.

“This year’s stage looks to be even more challenging.”

The 114 riders on The Tour will face three King of the Mountains climbs at Mamhead, Haytor, on Dartmoor, and Stoke Woods, on the outskirts of Exeter.

Devon-based Olympian and two-time British Road Race Champion Colin Lewis still holds the course record of 4 minutes 23 seconds for the Stoke Woods climb time trial, set during his professional riding years on a steel frame bike.

Colin, who completed the 1967 Tour de France and still rides competitively at the age of 71, has helped develop professional riders over the years, such as Jeremy Hunt and Yanto Barker, through his role with Mid Devon Cycling Club.

He said: “This year’s route looks really, really hard and I’m sure it will be an exciting stage. Devon has some good descents and climbs, and it’s because of our high terrain that we’ve produced good riders here.

“I’ve ridden most of these roads and any road on Dartmoor is hard. The Tour is certainly attracting a bigger and better field of riders, and I’m sure the teams will have some good climbers for this stage.”