Thousands headed for the streets of Wiltshire to catch a glimpse of the stars of world cycling as the Friends Life Tour of Britain raced into a warm Wiltshire welcome as communities came out to wave flags and cheer the riders through the county.
Wiltshire Council and communities from Bradford on Avon to Pewsey hosted events and organised celebrations to make it a day to remember. Thousands of school children lined the streets and enjoyed the festivities at County Hall, Trowbridge including a balloon maker, face painting and a bouncy castle.
Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council said; “We have had a fantastic year of cycling in Wiltshire and we are so pleased that our residents are embracing cycling, enabling them to enjoy the beautiful countryside we have across the County. Hosting the Tour of Britain across our county has really enabled us to showcase cycling to all our communities to show them the benefits and fun that can be had in participating in this sport.”
People in towns and villages along the route told of the “fantastic atmosphere” and excitement generated as Wiltshire was showcased to a global television audience.
Chris Chammings, Wiltshire Police inspector for Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon, said: “The Tour of Britain may have passed a future Olympic champion in Wiltshire. Everyone is buzzing, the atmosphere has been fantastic and everyone has really embraced the Tour of Britain.”
Retired Bob Auburn, 79, from Bradford on Avon, said: “It’s not just about the race itself, it’s the razzmatazz that goes with it. There are people coming here today who have never been to Bradford on Avon before. This is brilliant!” His friend Jacque Willmington, 70, also from Bradford on Avon, said: “I’m not a cyclist myself and came down out of interest. It has been exciting.”
Mark Ashley, from TT Cycles in Bradford on Avon, said: “This is great for cycling, great for the town and good for Wiltshire. Hopefully the Tour of Britain will come back if we do a good job.”
Lesley Lay, Sonya Stephens and Gail Mason are preparing for a cycling challenge in Africa to raise money for three cancer charities. The women took time out from their training to pedal static bicycles in Lamb Yard to raise awareness of their challenge and help them towards their fundraising target of £9,000.
Thousands also lined the streets of Pewsey to cheer on the cyclists racing through the historic streets.
Katie Clements and her dad Peter had cycled 25 miles from Salisbury to watch. Peter said: “We cycled using the back roads. It’s so close to where we live – probably the closest it’s going to be for a long while so we didn’t want to miss it. I’m really impressed with all the organisation around it to ensure it goes smoothly.”
Just hours before the cyclists arrived young people and the local community had spent hours creating a colourful decoration on the road into the high street to welcome the race to the village. Local community organisations as well as families had participated in the event, helping to promote the village in a colourful way.
School children from St Francis School and local school Pewsey Primary came to cheer on the cyclists.
Headteacher of Pewsey Primary Nicola Gilbert said: “It’s important to be part of the community and the children have been really excited about this as this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. It’s important for the children to be part of the sports side of it and it’s great when it’s happening on your doorstep.”
Sarah Smart of Blush Beauty Studio in the village was cheering on with her family as the cyclists raced past. Afterwards she said: “It’s very good but over really quick. There was a really great atmosphere. The kids have made the road look amazing and it’s great to see so many people turned out to support.