RIDERS bearing a baguette paid a visit to Maiden Castle as they marked the launch of a new cross-Channel cycle route.

A ‘baguette baton’ relay is under way to officially launch the Tour de Manche, a 1,200km route taking in the countryside of Northern France and South West England.

The French route has been active for some time and to celebrate the new English route riders have been passing a baguette along as they take sections of the ride between Poole and Tavistock in Devon.

Dorchester cyclists Graham Baynes, Shirley Rogers, Bill Rogers and Terry Holder took on the leg from Poole to Dorchester and then carried the baguette on to Axminster the next day.

The riders, who have a combined age of 289, gathered at Maiden Castle before setting off on their second day in the saddle.

Shirley said they were all happy to do their bit promote the Tour de Manche.

She said: “The route is active in France from Roscoff to St Malo and on to Cherbourg and this one completes the circle.”

Graham added that they are considering taking on the whole route next year.

To further publicise the launch of the route there will be a free family cycling event on Saturday taking place between Maiden Castle Road and Max Gate on the edge of Dorchester, finishing with a picnic at the National Trust Property.

Adam Bows, principal transport planner for Dorset County Council, said: “This is a great launch event for the Tour de Manche as it will take in the missing section of the local cycle network which was completed by the Cycle West project, and takes in two of our key tourist attractions. “We are hoping that some Hardy enthusiasts will take part and cycle the ride in period clothes, as Hardy was a keen cyclist from age 40.”

Fiona Clampin, Cycle West UK marketing manager said the Tour de Manche route could prove a major tourism asset to Dorset.

She said: “The new cycle route will potentially bring a new wave of tourists to Dorset – quite possibly from all around Europe – and who will be here to enjoy the quiet pleasures of our country-side and coastline.

“The opening event is a huge opportunity for us to ‘wave the flag’ and say ‘come and see what we have to offer’.”

Information on the Tour De Manche cycle route is now available online at tourdemanche. com.