Lucy Martin and Helen Wyman lead media ride through Suffolk ahead of The Aviva Women’s Tour
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
The Aviva Women’s Tour is returning to Suffolk as it hosts the first stage of the prestigious international cycle race on June 17.
And reporter Gemma Mitchell saddled up with some of the competitors to find out why the event is so important.
Olympian Lucy Martin and cyclo-cross champion Helen Wyman are not even out of breath.
Winding down country lanes from Snape through to Aldeburgh in what will be the final 10 miles of the opening route of Aviva Women’s Tour, they are enjoying the countryside and chatting with the press and civic leaders who have joined them for a morning ride.
Getting off her bike Helen, points at her surroundings: “I grew up in Norfolk and so for me it’s just like coming home, it’s so similar.
“It’s really beautiful, it’s really quiet and the old buildings are stunning.”
With the sun shining and the pressure off, it is a morning to take in the views. Of course, all will change in just under a month when hundreds of the world’s elite riders descend on Suffolk for what has become a focal point of the cycling calendar.
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Now in its second year, the Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour are fast becoming known as the most prestigious professional road races in Britain, with Aviva taking over title sponsorship earlier this year.
Helen said high-profile events like this were important in encouraging people to get active, adding: “Hopefully with us coming here, and the best riders in the world coming here, we can inspire girls and boys to try something new. It’s also great for the women to have role models who are making a career out something they love.”
Both the athletes proudly agreed that they were blessed with the best job in the world, with Lucy adding: “More and more people are finally realising how exciting cycling is and how much you can do with it - it’s going to keep on growing in the UK.”
The new Mayor of Aldeburgh and former competitive cyclist, Michael Kiff was even moved to get back on his bike after 40 years to get a sneak preview of what is set to be an economic highlight for town this year.
Mr Kiff said around 7,500 to 10,000 people were expected to turn out on the day to see the competitors cross the finish line at Market Cross, adding: “Aldeburgh is known for music and art and it’s nice to bring something different to the town. It will hopefully encourage youngsters and it’s not just about the event, it’s the spin off that it will bring afterwards.”
With 2015 named Suffolk’s Year of Cycling, it is hoped the event, along with others planned throughout the year, will motivate the county to travel on two wheels instead of four.
Suffolk Coastal councillor, TJ Haworth-Culf said hosting the start of stage three at Felixstowe last year had a positive impact on the district.
“You see it every day, there are people on their bikes, people are getting more active and generally more healthy,” she added.
Heading east from Bury St Edmunds, the opening 68.5mile stage will visit Stowmarket, Ipswich, Woodbridge, Saxmundham, and Leiston, before the final run to Aldeburgh along the coast south from Thorpeness.
The cyclists will then embark on four more stages, with the final route taking place on June 21 from Marlow to Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.
Jill Pearmain, of Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils, said it was living in Suffolk that crafted her enthusiasm for cycling because of its striking scenery and easy-riding roads.
“It’s an absolutely perfect setting,” she said. “It will be a huge splash of colour and an attractive event for anyone to come and watch.”
Jonathan Durling, head of consulting at Women’s Tour organiser, SweetSpot said it was the county’s energetic crowds that brought the event back for the second year.
He added: “Suffolk always embraces bike racing fantastically well and there is always a fantastic crowd.”