Video: Thousands expected to line Friends Life Women’s Tour route when race comes to Suffolk this June

The official launch of the opening stage of the 2015 Friends Life Women's Tour, which will start fro

The official launch of the opening stage of the 2015 Friends Life Women's Tour, which will start from Angel Hill in Bury. Tour cyclists, Gabriella Shaw (left) and Katie Curtis launch the tour. - Credit: Archant

The route for the opening stage of an international women’s cycling event has been revealed at the official launch event in Bury St Edmunds.

Womens Tour route

Womens Tour route - Credit: Archant

Yesterday marked 100 days to go until the Friends Life Women’s Tour, which will start on June 17 from where last year’s tour finished on Angel Hill in Bury.

The 110.2-kilometre leg will pass through five boroughs and districts in Suffolk, with an expected finish at about 2.15pm that day.

Heading east from Bury, the opening stage will take in Stowmarket, Ipswich, Woodbridge, Saxmundham, and Leiston, before the final run in to Aldeburgh along the coast south from Thorpeness, with the finish on the Market Cross.

It is anticipated there will be 5,000 to 10,000 spectators in Bury to watch the race get under way. And the evening before - June 16 - there will be an event at the Apex where the teams are introduced to the public, extending the benefits for the town.

Sarah Stamp, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said: “We cannot be more pleased that the Friends Life Women’s Tour has chosen to return to Bury St Edmunds.

“The world-class riders are inspirational, they really show that ‘this girl can’ and set a fabulous example to us all. There are so many opportunities this year for women and girls to get cycling - for daily travel, socially or training for the heat of competition - and I am looking forward to joining them.”

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Mayor of St Edmundsbury, Robert Everitt, said the success of last year’s tour finishing in the town had encouraged the organisers to come back to Bury.

“With that in mind, we will as a town and as a team effort make sure they have a successful start to their race,” he said.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Business Improvement District (BID) group Ourburystedmunds, said having the event on June 16 meant the town would get “maximum benefit and exposure” from the Women’s Tour.

He added: “And in the longer term we are still working with the county council about getting some longer-term cycling benefits for the town. There are discussions about making the town more cycling friendly.”

He said talks were around joining up existing cycle routes and getting improved cycle storage.

Alex Paul, director of Gough Hotels, which includes the Angel where yesterday’s launch took place, said: “We have got all these fabulous events coming through the town and it’s about building on the legacy of these events.”

Earlier this month Suffolk launched its Year of Cycling, which is about reaping the benefits of events such as the Friends Life Women’s Tour and the Men’s Tour of Britain.

Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “Cycling is a fantastic way to build exercise into everyday life and with the recent launch of Suffolk’s Year of Cycling, coupled with prestigious international events such as the Friends Life Women’s Tour visiting the county, we hope it will inspire people to get on their bikes, whether it’s for travel, leisure or sport.

“Suffolk is a fantastic county for cycling and without doubt it can make a significant contribution to our ambitions to become the most active county in England.”

Two sprints will take place during the stage at Kesgrave, outside Kesgrave High School, and a second to be confirmed location.

Riders will also tackle two Queen of the Mountain climbs at Hemmingstone, north of Ipswich, and at Snape.

TJ Haworth-Culf, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s cabinet member for customers, communities and leisure, said: “Suffolk Coastal is delighted to be able to continue to support the Friends Life Women’s Tour.

“We have had a great response from local people since we announced this news. The first stage finishing here will give a boost to this beautiful seaside town, bringing in extra tourism and raising the profile of both Aldeburgh 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.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Women’s Tour coming to our county is great news for local people and great news for our local economy.

“We know from sporting events that have come through the county in the past that they bring not only a sense of community but that those coming to see the event also spend time and money locally. We look forward to welcoming people to the county to enjoy this great event.”

The 2015 tour

The 2015 Friends Life Women’s Tour should see 100 of the world’s top female cyclists take part.

Jonathan Durling, from event organisers SweetSpot, said it was only in its second year, but already the Women’s Tour had become a “big race” in the world of women’s cycling, and not just for the UK.

He said top cyclists from all over the world - including countries such as Belgium, Holland, France, Italy and the US - would be competing in the event, which has a total of five stages.

Gabriella Shaw and Katie Curtis are with the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team, one of three British teams involved.

Ms Shaw, 22, from Yorkshire, said: “We are really excited about it. We will be the only amateur team in the race.”

Their team-mates, Dame Sarah Storey and Joanna Rowsell, are expected to take part.

Ms Curtis, 26, from South Wales, added: “Seeing so many women on a bike in one place will hopefully encourage other people to see they can do it as well; if they don’t want to race or have those aspirations, just to get out and ride their bike.”

Race Director Mick Bennett said: “We are expecting an exciting sprint finish in Aldeburgh, with the stage winner becoming our first Friends Life Yellow Jersey of the 2015 race.”