Gallery: Riders in Suffolk preview Tour of Britain stage that will be pedalled by the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish

A PRIVILEGED parade of cyclists followed the route mapped out for the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish when the Tour of Britain sets off in Suffolk next month.

Riders of varying proficiency got the full Tour experience - albeit at a more leisurely pace - complete with branded support vehicles and an official police escort.

Suffolk County Council invited members of the media to ride alongside local leaders, professional athletes and fundraising cyclists on the eight mile stretch from Westleton to Southwold.

Tour hopeful and Team IG Sigma Sport rider, Andrew Griffith, and Ipswich triathlete Abbie Thorrington led the way for much of the ride, followed by members of the Bobbies on a Bike charity team, Suffolk County Council leader, Mark Bee, Norfolk County Council culture chief, Barry Stone, and representatives of stage sponsor Adnams.

The annual race returns to the county on Sunday, September 9 - this time forming the opening stage of the event - setting off from Ipswich before taking in miles of Suffolk countryside and heading through towns and villages including Woodbridge, Leiston, Reydon and Lowestoft.

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Riders will then head north towards Great Yarmouth and eventually finish at the Norfolk Showground in Costessey, which is also hosting the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival.

Yesterday’s media preview began in Westleton - a Tour of Britain ‘King of the Mountain’ location - and took riders across county to Blythburgh before crossing an short stretch of the A12 and on to Southwold.

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Before the ride, Andy Wood, Adnams chief executive, said: “The return of the Tour is tremendous for Suffolk and Norfolk. The country has got into cycling in such a big way and we’re proud to be sponsoring the first stage. It’s very encouraging for rural businesses like ours.

“I hope the Tour also inspires people to get on their bikes - it doesn’t have to be a lycra-clad ride.”

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and current world road race champion Mark Cavendish are already confirmed to join Team Sky for the race, which last year saw more than 150,000 people line the streets for the East Anglian stage and is expected to bring at least a �2m boost to the local economy.

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “I think it is fantastic for Suffolk and Norfolk that this is happening, particularly in 2012 with a great deal of focus on active sport and particularly cycling.

“We are here today to show that if we can get out on our bikes and take part in this, quite clearly anyone can, and hopefully help increase participation in active sport.”

With the exception of the start and finish, a rolling road closure will be operated on the route by police and support motorcyclists riding ahead and holding traffic until the cyclists have passed through.

Average hold-ups are expected to last around 20 minutes but can be shorter depending the number of breakaway groups and the speed of the cyclists.

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