THOUSANDS lined the route of a prestigious cycling race as it pedalled its way through Oxfordshire today.

The OVO Energy Women’s Tour, Britain’s longest-running professional women’s race, kicked off its third stage in Henley with competitors cheered on by enthusiastic crowds.

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Around 100 riders set off on the 145 kilometre-leg from Hart Street in the centre of the town at 10.30am.

Oxford Mail:

Alexa Lee, aged 10, from Appleton Church of England Primary School, near Abingdon, waved a flag she designed of a cyclist against a multi-coloured background to start the Oxfordshire stage.

The competition winner said: “It ended up looking like she has a cloak. Like she is whizzing by. I love it. I used bright colours because the race is very exciting for me and my school friends.”

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From Henley, stage three of the race, which started in Suffolk on Monday, traversed the Chilterns via Pishill to Watlington, before returning via the climb of Britwell Hill to Sonning Common and Goring.

Oxford Mail:

Crossing the River Thames at Wallingford, the route passed through Didcot, Harwell and Wantage, then onto Faringdon, before looping through the West Oxfordshire towns of Burford, Charlbury and finally Woodstock in the closing kilometres before riders reached the finish line in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Belgium cyclist Jolien D'hoore sprinted to victory in four hours, nine minutes and 12 seconds and was presented with the stage win jersey by the Duke of Marlborough and county council chairman Les Sibley. Overnight race leader Marianne Vos, meanwhile, was once of six riders forced to abandon mid-stage following a crash near Didcot.

Oxford Mail:

While the entire route was lined with cheering children and enthusiastic spectators, riders met a particularly colourful welcome in Faringdon with the town looking pretty in pink to celebrate the race.

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Ahead of the event, Sjoerd Vogt, from Farcycles and Chair of the Faringdon Pink Pigeon Trust, said the race was the 'biggest event to hit Faringdon this century'.

Oxford Mail:

Also inspired by the women's race, 200 cyclists who work at Culham Science Centre racked-up 2,500 miles at its own Bike to Work Day today.

There were also cycling activities on throughout the day for schoolchildren at Blenheim Palace.

Oxford Mail:

Highlights of the race will be screened on ITV4 tonight and are also be available online via the ITV Hub.

The county will also host a stage of the race in 2020 and 2021.

All six Oxfordshire councils contributed £30,000 towards hosting the race.