Jonathan Tiernan-Locke's Tour of Britain victory adds to sparkling success
Westcountry cyclist Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has become the first home rider to win the Tour of Britain since 1993, after thrilling crowds in his home county.
Fans have declared the win the "icing on the cake" victory for a summer of cycling which has confirmed Devon as a "premier cycling destination".
Organisers said Saturday's penultimate leg of the race, which saw thousands line the route from Barnstaple, through Dartmoor and into Dartmouth, had an atmosphere which was on a par with the Tour de France.
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Well over £3 million is expected to have been generated for the local economy, with unprecedented spin-off benefits after thousands flocked to cheer on their heroes at picturesque spots on the route.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, from Plymouth, who wore the tour leader's gold jersey through his home leg of the race, said the reception was "fantastic".
"The crowds over the two main climbs, it was amazing, just a wall of sound and it gave me goose pimples just being there."
Mick Bennett, race director of The Tour of Britain, said of the Devon leg: "That was the best atmosphere I've experienced at a stage in the nine years we've been running The Tour of Britain and it's equal to that of The Tour de France. To see crowds of such big proportions was unbelievable. They were Tour de France size crowds. For me it was fantastic, the best stage we've ever had."
Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council's cabinet member for transport, said Mr Tiernan-Locke winning was the "icing on the cake" to a summer which has seen the nation go cycling mad after British triumphs including the Tour de France and the Olympics.
He said: "It's absolutely brilliant. The country's premier cycling county has produced the premier cyclist.
"It was absolutely out of this world," he said. "All the riders said they have only ever experienced crowds like they have seen here in Devon during the Tour de France. We have really achieved something to be on a par with that, and it means we can now call ourselves Britain's premier cycling county, not just for the Tour, but also all the work we have put into creating cycle trails around Devon."
He said it was the perfect vehicle to inspire residents to get involved with the sport.
"With petrol topping £1.40 per litre, there's never been a better time to get healthy and get back on two wheels," he said.
Brian Greenslade, leader of North Devon District Council, watched the start of yesterday's race. "It was a brilliant day for Barnstaple and for Devon," he said. "It's a great sporting occasion for the community, and I'm sure the coverage of our scenery will inspire people to come here to get some rest and relaxation."
Nigel Way, of the Royal Castle Hotel in Dartmouth, said the atmosphere at the finish line was "amazing".
"The town had a party atmosphere from early in the morning until late in the evening," he said. "I think all the hotels were booked up, and all the traders had a very good day. It definitely has a positive impact on the town and surrounding areas."
"One of the main benefits is the TV coverage. All those people who came down and experienced grey skies in the summer will have seen blue skies over Devon and azure blue seas – how nice is that?"