Leaving Harworth the participants follow Simpson’s daily bike commute to his first job as a trainee draftsman in Retford. The riders leave Tom’s daily journey at Ranskill, but join the start of his racing journey three miles later, after Mattersey, where they follow the old time trial course Tom made his racing debut on in 1952.
That five-mile time trial went to Clayworth and back, but our routes continue through the village to begin the Tom Simpson Retro Ride’s only significant climb, Haughgate Hill. It’s gentle at first, but gets steeper near the top. The descent is steep at first and straight, and is followed by a short stretch of main road.
This takes the riders to Misterton and a stretch of road known locally as Trentside. It’s flat, passes through several lovely quiet villages, and Tom knew it well through his chaingang rides as an amateur. Trentside and its villages have changed little since Tom rode here, and this quiet road is still popular with local cycling groups.
The routes split at Owston Ferry, the Moyenne going left and heading west, while the Grand goes right then continues north. They meet again shortly after Haxey. The Grand route continues alongside the mighty River Trent, through West Butterwick then under and over the M180, before heading over some rolling roads to Epworth, an unspoilt country town, the largest on an area of raised land known as the Isle of Axholme.
Axholme was a real island in the distant past, an area of upland surrounded by marshes that were drained by a Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden in the 17th century to create the flat fertile fields you see today.
Out of Epworth you cross some of the farmland Vermuyden created, joining the Moyenne route for the journey through Misson then busy Bawtry and back into Harworth via Wrights Hill and the finishing straight of the first Tom Simpson Memorial Races.