The Aviva Tour of Britain is the UK’s highest ranked cycle race, and its penultimate stage of 227 km was the longest, starting in Fakenham and running through Norwich, before heading through Bury St Edmunds, along the runway at Wattisham, through Hadleigh and finishing in Ipswich.
The early morning dampness gave way to good sunshine, which brought out the crowds not only along the route, but also to the finishing line in Princes Street, alongside the Willis building. A number of local cycling clubs were present at the finish, to see their role models compete in a high space arrival into Ipswich and a sprint from the rail station to the finish, taking only 5 minutes from passing under the Orwell bridge to the finishing line. But it wasn’t just the lycra –clad who were present, with people from around Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex present – even some spectators from Southampton.
Despite being thought of as fairly flat counties, the route still managed to find 1717 metres of ascent, with the final “King of the Mountains” race taking place up Bramford hill, with British rider Peter Wiliams taking the 4 points on offer just ahead of One Pro team mate George Harper, which secured him the Skoda King of the Mountains classification on 36 points, 2 ahead of rival Thomas Stewart of Maddison Genesis.
With cycling related stands, there was something of a festival atmosphere as spectators waited patiently for the arrival. Watching the riders on a giant screen and listening to the broadcast race commentary, the mood suddenly changed from festival to feverish excitement as two of the international teams led in their sprinters towards the finish – and what a finish! After 227 km the separation in the photo finish showed something like 2.27 centimetres difference between MTN Qhubeka’s André Greipel and Sky’s Elia Viviani.
21 riders finished in the first bunch to be awarded thesame time, stunning some of the spectators with the speed with which they flashed over the finish line.
It was great to see so many people turn out for such a prestige event. Suffolk has been lucky to be the only county to host both the men’s Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour this year and this must certainly help the county to integrate cycling into the community, when young people can see such internationally renowned sports men and women in these events. That combined with events such as the Sky Ride in Ipswich only a few weeks ago and the Street Velodrome in Lowestoft in July has to be positive.
You can join the Suffolk Year of Cycling on Twitter by following @SuffolkSpokes, adding the hash tags #SuffolkYOC and #AVWT2015, or find more information online at Suffolkyearofcycling.co.uk.
Georgie from Southampton practices her cycling skills at the finish of Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain.
Ipswich Cycle Club members Simon Jarrold & Liz Newbery flying the club colours.