What legacy will there be from ‘Suffolk’s Year of Cycling’ after Tour of Britain has been and gone?

Tour of Britain Media Ride

Tour of Britain Media Ride - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is fast becoming a regular host of the some of the best athletes in the world of cycling, with the men’s and women’s Tour of Britain both calling on the county this year.

Tour of Britain Media Ride

Tour of Britain Media Ride - Credit: Archant

The first stage of the women’s tour snaked through from Bury St Edmunds to Aldeburgh in June, with the men’s tour set to take in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich on September 12.

The interest in the sport is at an all-time high, and with Suffolk County Council dubbing this year Suffolk’s Year of Cycling, the question of how to create a legacy for these events, outside the sharp short boost to the economy, is key.

This question came up at yesterday’s Men’s Aviva Tour of Britain media ride, which saw civic leaders, race organisers and journalists tackle a 15-mile stretch of Stage Seven, crossing the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

Keen cyclist Robert Everitt, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for communities, said: “Cycling is a real family sport – everyone of all ages can enjoy it.

Tour of Britain Media Ride

Tour of Britain Media Ride - Credit: Archant

“In terms of creating a legacy, there are two elements. Cycling is a great way of keeping fit, and a cheap and quick way of getting about the town.

“So the more people we can get cycling off the back of events like these the better. The second element is using the reputation St Edmundsbury and especially Bury St Edmunds are earning to create a real home of sport.

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“We already had the Rwandan Olympic team training in Bury in 2012, and I think the town is becoming increasingly active.

“One of our long-term aims would see a cycle track (outdoor oval) built in Bury. There has been a need for this facility identified in East Anglia. And I think, with our reputation for hosting these cycling events, we can make a strong case that it should be in Bury.”

Men's Tour media ride.

Men's Tour media ride. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The case often put by councillors and politicians is that a more active population is a healthier population – and a healthier population means a cheaper NHS and social care bill.

Suffolk’s Year of Cycling focuses on this idea – working with schools and businesses to encourage all generations to get on their bike.

It was launched by the county council in March at Bury’s Apex Theatre.

Diana Kearsley, Mid Suffolk District Council’s portfolio holder for communities, said: “Suffolk’s Year of Cycling has been given a tremendous boost hosting the Women’s and Men’s cycling tours.

“It’s not often we get a chance to witness one, let alone two, major sporting events on our doorstep.”

Joining the media ride were pro-riders Dexter Gardias and George Atkins from the ONE Pro Cycling team, co-owned by former England cricketer Matt Prior.

Both 24, they agreed that no matter what your age or ability, you can reap the benefits of cycling.

Mr Gardias said: “It is just a sport everyone can get involved in, you can cycle down to a café with your friends to get something to eat or you can compete in longer rides.”

Both riders said the sport was becoming increasingly popular with the British public.

“When you go out training you notice it,” said Mr Gardias. “I see more and more people out riding as well.”

Mr Atkins, who is hoping to be selected to ride in his fourth Tour of Britain, said the support of family plays a big role in getting people cycling.

“Since the Olympics, people who are not even cyclists are getting wrapped in watching the sport,” he said. “You see it at the roadside, there are thousands lining the streets to watch.

“It was my dad that got me interested in cycling – he took me to a race meeting aged 13 and I was gripped.

“But you do need a lot of support, it is not a cheap sport when you start to take it seriously – and my family were brilliant.

“That can be a bit of an obstacle, and there are a few programmes that help people out – but more funding would help.”

To find out more about the tour visit www.tourofbritain.co.uk/home.php