THE world’s leading cyclists are set to take part in next month’s prestigious Women’s Tour have been revealed.

The event - the UK’s biggest professional women’s cycling race - returns to Colchester and Tendring on October 8.

The race, which has been rescheduled from its traditional June calendar position due to Covid-19 pandemic, will see from Colchester to the coast as part of the penultimate stage of the six-day event.

Twelve of the world’s top 15 teams will be among those in action at this year’s AJ Bell Women’s Tour.

Defending champion Lizzie Deignan, recently-crowned world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk, former winner Kasia Niewiadoma, and Tokyo 2020 medallists Marlen Reusser and Lisa Klein are among the first riders announced for this year’s tour.

After a hiatus of more than 840 days, the race will start in Oxfordshire on October 4.

Segafredo star Deignan became the AJ Bell Women’s Tour’s first two-time champion when she triumphed in June 2019’s race.

She will be joined on the start line by her team-mate van Dijk, who is set to wear the famous world champion’s rainbow jersey for the first time in the race’s first individual time trial stage.

Polish rider Niewiadoma was a popular winner of the race in 2017 and finished runner-up behind Deignan two years ago.

She will line up for Canyon SRAM Racing alongside Lisa Klein, who was part of the German quartet who won gold and set a new world record in the team pursuit – ahead of Great Britain – at this summer’s Olympic Games.

Klein, who will compete in her fifth edition of the race, also took gold in the world championships mixed relay time trial in Bruges, Belgium, last week.

Another contender for victory is Reusser, silver medallist in the time trial at both this year’s Olympics and world championships.

The Swiss champion will make her debut with the Alé BTC Ljubljana team.

Also set to compete are Lotte Kopecky, of Liv Racing, the reigning Belgian road and time trial champion, and Movistar Team’s Danish rider Emma Norsgaard, who took a memorable stage victory in this year’s Giro d’Italia Femminile.

Both riders are expected to be in contention for victories in the race’s sprint stages.

Having dominated the Škoda V-Women’s Tour, the virtual edition of the race held last year, the American TIBCO – Silicon Valley Bank squad will return with a strong team featuring reigning US road race champion Lauren Stephens and recent Ladies Tour of Norway stage winner Kristen Faulkner.

Further rider announcements will be made over the coming week, building up to the race, which gets underway with a stage from Bicester to Banbury.

The fifth stage of the tour will finish in Clacton.

The stage route will include a loop this year and spectators will get to see all the action twice, with stands and activities planned at the finish line for people to enjoy.

The race will also take in Manningtree, Mistley and Lawford, Thorpe-le-Soken, Holland-on-Sea and Elmstead Market.

Villages along the route from Great Bromley to Clacton will also see the action twice as the peloton loops round the course.

Key places to watch include Thorrington, where riders will twice compete for Queen of the Mountains points up Tenpenny Hill, or Elmstead Market.

Alex Porter, Tendring Council’s cabinet member for tourism, said: “Earlier this month we saw the Tour of Britain, the men’s equivalent race, draw huge crowds out along each stage and I really hope that Colchester and Tendring residents, boosted by cycling fans from across the region, can rise to the occasion and match that to cheer on these elite athletes.

“ So please start to think now about where you might come and watch the race.”