TOP class cycle racing returns to Redditch town centre next Thursday, May 9 when the OVO Energy Tour Series commences with the opening round of this year's popular competition.

This will be the eighth consecutive year that Redditch has played host to the series, which in the past has attracted some of the stars of British cycling.

Highly rated Hannah Barnes proved a winner in 2013, Olympic champion Laura Kenny competed in 2015, while Jon Mould was triumphant in both 2015 and 16.

This year's event comprises of three races following the opening ceremony at which takes place in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre at 2pm.

Racing gets underway with an Inter Services Championship at 3.25pm.

That will be followed by cycling activities hosted by the Redditch Road and Path Cycling Club at 4.20pm.

The Women's Elite Race gets underway at 5-30pm with the Men's Elite contest starting at 7pm.

All races start and finish in Church Green West and take in a course that comprises of a route around Prospect Hill, Clive Road, Mill Street, Hewell Road and then Unicorn Hill before returning to the start line.

Last year's event saw Chris Opie of Canyon Eisberg set the fastest lap time of 1 min 56.131 secs, while Rebecca Durrell from the Storey Racing team clocked 2 mins 15.187 secs.

A total of seven men's teams will be contesting the entire Tour Series with Essex-based Richardsons Trek and Cumbrian side Wheelbase among the likely favourites, while the Scottish National Team will be among the leading contenders to lift the women's prize.

Redditch professional rider Beth Crumpton will be restricted to the ranks of spectator this year, but is delighted to see the Tour Series return to her hometown.

She said: "The circuit meets all aspects of physical, mental and technical challenges.

"There isn't much flat terrain in the track, it's either uphill or dragging uphill with a good punch up Unicorn Hill.

"It provides a great platform for a great night of racing!

Highlights of the Tour Series areset to feature on ITV 4.

Further information about the Tour Series can be obtained by going to: