Tour de France: Excitement builds with just four days to go until racing comes to region

Nicola Burrell has designed meadow art which will be mown into a 10 hectare piece of land at North W

Nicola Burrell has designed meadow art which will be mown into a 10 hectare piece of land at North Weald Airfield for the Tour de France, visible to passing TV helicopters. - Credit: Archant

Excitement is building as the world’s biggest cycle race comes to Essex on Monday.

Stage three of the Tour de France passes through the county on its way between Cambridge and London, with riders spending most of their time in Essex.

The 200 riders will set off at 12.15pm, and are expected to enter Essex less than 30 minutes later.

They will be preceded by the Caravan, a procession of floats and vehicles giving out freebies to the spectators, which will come into Essex at about 10.44am.

See tomorrow’s East Anglian Daily Times for your full guide to the event, and keep up-to-date with our Tour de France section of the web site.

The biggest event in the road racing cycling calendar, the Tour de France begins this year with two stages in Yorkshire ahead of Monday’s ride, before it moves across to France.

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Ann Naylor, Essex county councillor for public health and well-being, said: “This is a huge event and we are ready for the world to come.

“Businesses are keen on it. Some were perhaps not at first but after reflection they realised it will attract people into their town, and people will hear about it on TV and it will make a big difference in raising the profile of their area.”

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Gary Sullivan, chairman of Active Essex, said: “Closing 180km of roads will be interesting, but we have done something similar with the Olympic torch relay.

“We have the confidence of the cycling world in putting on events, and they didn’t hesitate in putting Essex onto the route.

“It is going to be fantastic.

“We expect people to come from France, Holland, Belgium and elsewhere as well. This is a pan-Essex event.

“It is a colourful spectacle with all the team jerseys, and we are encouraging everyone to get out there and get involved, including decorating their houses or shop fronts if they are along the route itself.”

Decorations are going up along the route, including bunting and flags, while art work will also be drawn onto the road and in nearby fields, visible for both the passing helicopters and riders, in the traditional spirit of the race.

Organisers say it is difficult to estimate how many visitors the Tour will bring to Essex, but say the fact the Essex stage is on a Monday is less worrying than if it rains on the day.

Mr Sullivan said: “We are expecting a significant number of visitors. Half a million, a million, more? We will never know because we can’t count them all.

“It is hard to put a figure on the commercial benefit. We can’t quantify it but we think it will also be significant.”

Research carried out in 2007 suggests the event could bring more than £10million to Essex.

A team of Tour Makers, based on the successful Olympic model, along with young Tour Makers drawn from schools across Essex, will line the route and help people on the day.

Around the racing itself there will be a range of cultural events in villages, towns and cities along the route including music, art and theatre.

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