Video: Cycling’s elite will race width of Suffolk as The Women’s Tour gets under way in Bury St Edmunds on June 17
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The world’s best female cyclists are returning to Suffolk for this year’s Women’s Tour of Britain, it has been revealed.
The county has been chosen as a race venue for the second year in a row – delighting tourism chiefs hoping for another boost to the local economy and an upsurge in enthusiasm for cycling.
The news completes a double boost for the region after November’s announcement that the Tour of Britan would return to East Anglia for at least one stage in September.
The first stage of the 2015 Friends Life Women’s Tour begins where last year’s final stage finished – at the Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday, June 17.
Although the exact route is yet to be revealed, riders are likely to cover the width of the county before finishing up in the seaside town of Aldeburgh.
Bury St Edmunds will also host a free team presentation event the evening before the opening stage, giving fans the chance to welcome the world’s top teams and riders to the town.
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Sara Mildmay-White, deputy leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “The 2014 Friends Life Women’s Tour was one of last year’s highlights, and I am delighted that this world class event will be returning to Bury St Edmunds.
“Watching athletes at the top of their sport is exhilarating and the event has a terrific atmosphere. I hope it is also inspirational and many more women will be persuaded of the benefits of getting on their bikes and enjoying our very special part of Suffolk.”
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The men’s race came through the region in 2010, 2011 and 2012, when some 180,000 people in Norfolk and Suffolk lined the streets to cheer on the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and sprinter Mark Cavendish.
Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s health and adult care chief, said: “It is extremely exciting that the Friends Life Women’s Tour is returning to Suffolk and starting where last year’s climaxed.
“Last year Bury St Edmunds was filled with thousands of spectators eagerly awaiting the race finish and we expect this year’s event to be just as spectacular.
“The Friends Life Women’s Tour provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the county’s picturesque towns, villages and countryside as world and Olympic champions pass through Suffolk’s local communities.”
The announcement comes as Sport England launches ‘This Girl Can’, a campaign to help encourage more women to take up exercise.
The second edition of the Friends Life Women’s Tour takes place over five stages from Wednesday, June 17, to Sunday, with daily highlights broadcast on ITV4.
Race director Mick Bennett said: “After the great success of last year’s race it is fitting that we will be starting off the second edition of the Friends Life Women’s Tour from where the 2014 tour finished.
“Last year’s race surpassed all of our expectations and thanks to the support of Suffolk County Council, Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk Coastal, we know this year’s will start off on a similarly high-level.”
Further details for the 2015 tour will be announced over the coming weeks. The full list of 16 teams will be confirmed during the Spring.
Bury St Edmunds is preparing to host the start of the entire event this year.
The 2015 Friends Life Women’s Tour will see 100 of the world’s top female cyclists come to the town on May 17.
The move has been welcomed by the chief executive of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID), Mark Cordell.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted. It was a fabulous event last year when we hosted the finish.
“Many of our businesses will benefit from the footfall, especially the cafés.
“The organisers must have been delighted with how we hosted the event last year.”
The town has previously held the men’s event in 2011, the Tour of Britain, when the likes of Mark Cavendish set off from Angel Hill.
He added: “I think Suffolk as a whole and in particular Bury is now being recognised as being very supportive to these types of events.”
Mr Cordell also felt the town could create a legacy from sporting events of this scale.
He said: “From a business perspective, the legacy could help to make the town centre more cycle friendly. Better cycle paths and cycle storage would be welcome.
“I still have the desire for the town to adopt some form of (cycle hire) ‘Boris Bikes’ scheme.”
Suffolk must have left a lasting impression on organisers when it hosted the inaugural women’s tour.
Last year, in addition to the final stage finish in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Coastal also hosted the start of the third stage, which set off from Felixstowe and passed through Ipswich and was won by the eventual tour champion, Marianne Vos.
This time the county has been chosen as the sole venue for the flagship first stage of the race.
TJ Haworth-Culf, Suffolk Coastal’s head of customers, communities and leisure, said: “Suffolk Coastal is delighted to be able to continue to support the Friends Life Women’s Tour. This allows us to give a boost to the beautiful seaside town of Aldeburgh, bringing in extra tourism and raising the profile of the town and the entire district, while also encouraging people to have healthier lifestyles.
“I am sure the people of Aldeburgh, and those along the entire route, will turn out to support this exceptional event.”
The opening stage will be supported by Adnams, now a well-established local partner for both the Friends Life Women’s Tour and Friends Life Tour of Britain when it visits Suffolk.
Emma Hibbert, head of corporate affairs at the brewer, said: “Adnams is delighted to be involved in the Friends Life Women’s Tour once again. Last year’s inaugural event was a terrific success and proved the popularity of cycling, for women and men, elite and recreational, continues to grow.
“To see so many of the world’s top female cyclists whizzing along our county’s roads was a real inspiration to us all. The Friends Life Women’s Tour is an event which Adnams is proud to support and excited to see return.”
The full field for this year’s tour is yet to be announced but a number of high-profile riders could be speeding through the streets of Suffolk when June rolls round.
The first two British teams confirmed for the tour are Matrix Fitness and Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, riding in support of Boot Out Breast Cancer.
Riders could include double Olympic gold medallist Laura Trott, world champion Dani King, world cup and world championship winner Joanna Rowsell, national cyclo-cross champion and world road championship winner Helen Wyman, Welsh road champion Hannah Rich, national champion Hannah Walker, Annie Simpson, Penny Rowson, Jessie Walker and Sarah Reynolds.
Last year’s event was won by Dutch rider Marianne Vos, who sealed victory by taking her third consecutive stage victory in Bury St Edmunds.
Olympic silver medallist and Commonwealth gold winner Lizzie Armitstead also took part in the inaugural event.