ORGANISERS of this year's Tour of Britain cycle race have hailed the South West stage, set to start in Minehead, as the toughest ever.

The announcement comes as three-time Olympic champion and gold medallist Bradley Wiggins is revealed as the leader of this year's SKY Professional Cycling Team, which includes national road race champion Geraint Thomas and 2008 Tour of Britain runner up Steve Cummings.

The South West is hosting the fourth and fifth stages of the race, covering 347 km, which are two of the three longest routes on this year's tour and make up a quarter of the entire race.

The fourth stage will run from Minehead to Teignmouth on September 14.

Graham Bagley, Somerset County Council's Tour of Britain project manager, said: “Stage four has been quoted as the toughest stage in the history of The Tour.

“There are at least se ven tough hills to challenge the riders.

“This will be a gruelling stage, even for hardened professionals.

“Once again the terrain of Somerset and Devon will make for some exciting racing, cementing our position as hosts of the best stages in the country.”

Organisers say over the two stages the riders will face six sprints and six 'King of the Mountains' climbs, including Ralegh's Cross on Exmoor and Peak Hill in Sidmouth, which are set to test the riders to their limit.

Last year a quarter-of-a-million people flocked to the region to witness the event, giving a £5.8m boost to the hosting counties' economies.