Top cyclists provide boost for region
SUFFOLK and Essex reaped a multi-million-pound boost as the Tour of Britain cycling race swept through the two counties, tourism bosses said.
The premier sporting event staged its penultimate leg yesterday, with world-class competitors taking on a 94-mile course between Bury St Edmunds and Colchester.
Up to 2,000 people gathered in the heart of Bury St Edmunds to witness the start of the seventh leg of the tour, which has wound its way across Britain over the past week. Similar crowds were out in force to watch the end of the stage in Colchester.
Top riders, including Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, made their way through some of the region’s most picturesque villages including Depden, Wickhambrook, Clare, Cavendish, Tiptree and Great Totham.
Last night, Suffolk County Council, which laid on the infrastructure for the race with district councils, said the event had pumped an extra �1.5million into the county’s economy in a single day. Essex also reported a booming day of business for shops and restaurants.
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“We were absolutely delighted to be able to host stage seven of the tour,” said Rosemary Clarke, the Suffolk council’s portfolio holder for sport. “It is an immense privilege for us to see so many people and it is important to Suffolk, it really is.
“It is an enormous boost to the economy here – about �1.5m, with people staying here and spending their money and getting to know Suffolk, which is such a beautiful county.”
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Stephen Castle, Essex county councillor in charge of the 2012 Games, said: “I think the benefit from today will be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, in that region, and far more in the long run.
“People will have come to the area for this, they will also see the town on the television along with the fantastic views of the Essex countryside although it’s quite difficult to tangibly measure that today.”
Some businesses in Bury said some regular customers may have been unable to get into town yesterday because of the crowds, but it was thought hotels and restaurants enjoyed an extremely busy day.
Steve Peters, Bury’s town centre manager, said: “Certainly there was a good buzz down on Angel Hill. But a lot of local people knew the race was on and stayed away. I think the eateries in the town did well.”
Sonia Lewis, the mayor of Colchester, stood near the finish line to cheer the cyclists as they completed the stage.
She said: “I am very proud of Colchester and the way that all of the people have put the event together.
“People are coming up to me and saying ‘we have never been to Colchester before – it’s wonderful’.
“It has got to put Colchester on the map and it’s for something positive.”
Nick Barlow, the Colchester borough councillor responsible for tourism, added: “This is about promoting the town nationally and internationally and raising its profile and letting people see what we have to offer. There will be the short-term benefits from today for the shops and the restaurants in the town but I think in the long term it shows we are capable of hosting such events again in the future.”
A spokesman for the Tour of Britain said: “We’re again delighted with the response of spectators and local communities in both counties.
“At Bury St Edmunds we had some of the biggest crowds we’ve seen at any start venue this year, and a tremendous atmosphere, in a beautiful setting.
“Our partners at Suffolk County Council and Essex County Council have been great to work with, and have helped us put on a world-class sporting event, that the public have really embraced, so we are extremely happy with the way the stage has gone.”
To see the video of the start of the seventh leg of the tour visit www.eadt24.co.uk