Suffolk send off for Olympic heroes

IPSWICH is set to give Britain’s Olympic cycling heroes a super send-off as the 2012 Tour of Britain starts from the town in September.

The first stage of the event sets off from the Waterfront on September 9. Riders will head north east through Woodbridge, Leiston, Reydon, and Lowestoft before crossing into Norfolk near Great Yarmouth.

They will then head towards Norwich, ending at the Royal Norfolk Showground.

The impact of the Tour of Britain on the county’s tourist economy is expected to be phenomenal.

Last year it is estimated that it brought business valued at about �850,000 to Suffolk. This year experts estimate the value will be well over �1 million.

Not only is it the start of the whole race, but it is also the first event after the Olympics.

Organisers hope that many of those who will have won medals in London will be taking part in the event – and there will be an opportunity for local people to see them as they prepare to set off on the race.

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Kathy Gosling, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member responsible for sport in Suffolk, said: “I’m thrilled that this year Suffolk will be hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour of Britain.

“Hosting the penultimate stage of the race last year had an enormously positive impact on the local economy and I expect that we will see an even bigger boost this year.

“I’d especially like to thank Adnams for agreeing to be the lead sponsor for Suffolk once again.

“2012 is going to be a tremendous year for sport in Suffolk and to know that this international sporting event is going to begin in our county is the icing on the cake. I’m certain that residents will turn out in force to support this incredible event.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer was delighted. He said: “This is magnificent news. It is a really fantastic opportunity to show off what we have at the Waterfront.

“If the weather is as good on the 9 September as it was today it will be a great opportunity to show off the town and what it has to offer. I am very excited to hear the news.”

There was also a welcome from Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere.

He said: “This is another huge boost for Ipswich and will come at the end of an incredible summer of sport and entertainment – coming on top of Sky Ride, Sport Relief, the Olympic Torch Relay, Maritime Festival, Ip-art, Doctor Who and, of course, the European cyclo-cross championships.

“We hope to welcome many, many thousands of people from across the region and beyond.”

As well as the day itself, the Tour of Britain will be encouraging amateur cyclists to try out the route for themselves on July 22.

Last year about 150,000 lined the route in Suffolk and Norfolk – on that occasion it started in Bury St Edmunds and came to Ipswich before turning north and finishing at the Queen’s estate at Sandringham.

The Tour of Britain first visited Suffolk in 2010 – and the county now seems to have become a fixture in the planning for the tour.