Cycling puts the wheels of commerce in motion

The Peleton passing through Boxford during Stage 5 of the Women's Tour of Britain 2014.

The Peleton passing through Boxford during Stage 5 of the Women's Tour of Britain 2014. - Credit: citizenside.com

With both the Tour of britain and The Women’s Tour cycling series due to come to the region this year, Ross Bentley looks at the potential economic impact of the events and talks to Andy Wood at Adnams about why the company is backing the Suffolk stage of the women’s race.

The rolling countryside and picture postcard villages of Suffolk and north Essex make the area a great place for a cycle ride. It is a point not lost on race organisers who have brought some of the sport’s most prestigious events to the region in recent years.

The final stage of last year’s inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain saw the cream of women’s cycling race from Harwich to Bury St Edmunds while the Tour De France 2014 also visited Essex as the peloton wound through places like Saffron Walden and Finchingfield on its way to London.

This year more top class cycling is heading our way. The Women’s Tour kicks off next month with a stage from Bury St Edmunds to Aldeburgh before taking competitors from Braintree to Clacton on the following day. The men’s Tour of Britain is expected in the region in September when competitors will pedal a gruelling 225km round the houses from Fakenham to Ipswich. It’s the first time both events have taken place in the region in the same year.

While these events are a boon for cycling fans they are also seen as an opportunity to boost the local economy in terms of attracting visitors to the region on the day and promoting the region as a tourist destination in the longer term.


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Later this week, Alistair Grant, pictured right, commercial director at Sweetspot Group, the company that organises the events, and Andy Wood, the chief executive at brewers Adnams, which is the principal sponsor of the Womens’ Tour on its Suffolk leg, are due to address a meeting at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce about the business benefits key cycling events bring.

“There are costs involved in bringing these events to the region but they are a community celebration that brings some of the best athletes in their sport in the world to the county and literally outside people’s doorsteps,” says Grant.

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“Investment from private sector sponsors helps with these costs and there are also huge benefits to the local economy as spectators travel from far and wide to watch the events.”

Grant says in 2012 the first stage of the Tour of Britain that started on Ipswich Waterfront and finished at Norwich Showground generated £3.3million for the region on the day while the final stage of the Women’s Tour that ended in Bury St Edmunds grossed around £500,000. The figures are based on spectator numbers, visitor surveys and the number of hotel nights.

Tourism

But there are other economic benefits that are more difficult to quantify, according to Colin Grogan, Suffolk County Council’s sport, health and inclusion development manager.

He said: “The events are also an opportunity to showcase Suffolk as a tourist destination because they are shown on television screens across Europe and are a good chance to show what this place has to offer. We work closely with Visit Suffolk and hope to capitalise on the growth in popularity of cycling holidays.”

Grogan says he is keen to attract businesses in the county to come on board as event sponsors – it already has Adnams as its principal sponsor for the Women’s Tour but is offering a range of packages to other interested parties. Benefits to participating companies include branding on media in the run up to the event, corporate hospitality and logos on hoardings near the start and finishing lines.

But Grogan says commercial considerations are not the only reason for bringing cycling events to the region. The authority also hopes they will inspire people to get on their bikes themselves, whether it be to cycle to work or for fun, or to get seriously involved in the sport of cycling.

To tie in with the events it has launched a Suffolk Year of Cycling initiative for that purpose (see www.suffolkyearofcycling.co.uk). The campaign also aims to encourage other road users to be more considerate to cyclists, so those choosing to pedal the highways and byways of Suffolk can do so in safety.

Over in Essex, county councillor Kevin Bentley describes the economic impact of the Tour de France in Essex last year as “colossal”. The official impact report in the wake of the event found that Cambridgeshire and Essex had together received an £11m boost from the day.

“We had a tremendous number of people come out at the different locations when the Tour De France was here,” he says.

“Every since the Olympics, cycling has just grown in popularity and more and more people are taking an interest in it. When we have races like this coming to Essex it’s a great for the economy all over the region as people come to the area and spend real money in restaurants, tea rooms and shops.

“Its economic impact was colossal and it was a tourist attraction in its own right.”

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