Video/Gallery: Admiration for elite athletes as second stage of The Women’s Tour sets off from Braintree
- Credit: Archant
School children, cycling enthusiasts and families all jostled for the top spots this morning as they gathered for the start of day two of the Women’s Tour.
Crowds started gathering from around 8.30am, ready for the official start at 10am.
There was an air of disappointment after it was confirmed that Lizzie Armitstead would not be in the line up following yesterday’s accident in Aldeburgh, but the fans were still excited to see the world’s top female cyclists set out on their 138km route.
Each team was presented to the crowd as they ceremoniously signed on and national star Laura Trott received the largest cheer by far.
Rebecca Hammond, 29, is a leading member of Maldon Cycling Club, and she was there with team mates including her partner.
She said: “Seeing cyclists of this level so close to home is really inspirational, especially for female cyclists like myself.
“When I first started cycling nine years ago it wasn’t very popular and there were barely any women taking part.”
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She named Marianne Vos as someone she aspires to be like and added: “Unfortunately Lizzie Armitstead isn’t riding today, I would have loved to have seen her cycle.”
She added: “In Europe women’s cycling is huge and we are finally beginning to catch up, and events like today help that. To have a crowd like this at a cycling event is unbelievable, the sport seems to have really exploded in recent years.”
Miss Hammond revealed that she is helping encourage more woman to take up the sport and said: “I am very lucky in that I have turned my hobby into a job and work part time for CTC, the national cycling charity.
“I lead novice riders on bike rides to introduce them to the sport.”
At 9.45am the star riders began to take their places, with the winners of yesterday’s jerseys taking up poll position on the start line.
Lizzie Armitstead won several titles yesterday and so some of the jerseys were handed to the runners up to take up the gauntlet in her absence.
The crowd counted down the final 10 seconds and then they were off.
The atmosphere was charged as the riders speedily passed by, you could see the power in their legs as they fought for a strong but steady start, and you could hear the team leaders giving instructions to their team mates in an attempt to get the best tactical start to the days racing.
George Woosey and Alex King, both 15, from the Helena Romanes School in Great Dunmow were watching with classmates after their teacher organised an outing.
George said: “We signed up because there are not many major sporting events that you can go along to and watch for free. This was a really good opportunity to come and see it, especially as it is a sport we are interested in.”
Both boys are keen cyclists, competing in time trials, and George added: “Cycling has started to get more popular thanks to people like Wiggins. I think the tipping point was the 2012 Olympics when our cycling teams were really successful.”
Alex admitted that it was a good opportunity for girls to see sportswomen in action and added: “There are lots of year 7 and Year 8 girls who have come along today.”
After the riders had passed Becky Holland said: “It was great to see the start, we are from Braintree so we wanted to come down and see the action.”
She was with son, Finley, four, and added: “We have just bought Finley his first bike, so we wanted him to see some real cycling. We did go along to Rayne to see the Tour De France last year and it is great to have all of these events right on our doorstep.”