Gallery: Thousands line roads to watch cyclists on The Women’s Tour battle it out
Thousands of people turned out across Suffolk and Essex yesterday to watch the world’s top female cyclists battle for victory.
Race organisers say they were “extremely heartened” by the crowds of cheering spectators who turned out in support yesterday of the Women’s Tour third stage.
The spectators were rewarded with a day of competitive racing and several attacks and attempted breakaways.
Hugh Roberts, chief executive with Sweet Spot, which has organised the event, said the enthusiastic response was “vital” to the event’s success.
Speaking before the start of the stage in Felixstowe, he said: “I think it’s been extremely heartening to see the local population of Suffolk and Essex come out in their droves.
“It’s great for the riders when they are going through a bit of a rough patch in the race or when the weather is not so good to suddenly go past bunches of schoolchildren all screaming, waving their flags and cheering them on. It must be very uplifting and I think it’s vital for the race.”
Yesterday’s section of the race – known as the Dutch stage due to the flatness of its route – is also the only stage to start and finish on the coast, with Felixstowe and Clacton each benefiting from the added prestige.
Stage winner and new yellow jersey holder Marianne Vos, the Olympic and World champion from the Netherlands, added: “We have had fantastic crowds. In all the villages all of the school kids are out and there are people everywhere, even in the rain.
“The route felt very Dutch today, but we don’t have that many hedges to take away the wind – the wind was Dutch and the winding roads were, but I’m going to take some hedges back home.” She added that despite her eight-second lead it would all go down to the wire in the final stage, which departs from Dovercourt at 10am tomorrow and works its way through Essex and Suffolk to Bury St Edmunds.
Vos also popped behind the bar in the Westcliff Theatre, Clacton, the media centre for the stage finish where she posed for photos and looking longingly at the drinks, telling assembled journalists she would have to wait for the Tour’s end before indulging in the champagne she received for winning the stage.
Peter Hodges, spokesman for the organisers, said after yesterday’s stage finish: “We are definitely looking forward to stage five – we have been to Suffolk and Essex with the men’s Tour of Britain and the Tour Series and they feel like home.
“It is a second chance to witness the spectacle, and the finish in Bury is so picturesque.
“We always get a really good reception. People stop the cyclists and speak to them everywhere we go, everyone is so friendly.”