VIDEO AND PICTURES: Glorious Devon day for Sir Bradley and Tour of Britain
The Westcountry’s stunning landscape proved the perfect backdrop as Devon once again rose to the occasion of hosting the UK’s biggest professional cycling race.
Tens of thousands of people lined the lanes and streets yesterdayFRI to watch Sir Bradley Wiggins take a big step towards victory in the Tour of Britain.
British academy rider Simon Yates sprinted to victory at Haytor on Dartmoor in the first summit finish in the history of the race as the Olympic hero maintained his overall lead.
“I’m ecstatic,” said the 21-year-old who completed the 85-mile (138 km) route in three hours 44 minutes.
“I just hoped for a good position as I hit the climb and people started to fall away. It’s one of my best victories.”
Crowds were greeted with warm sunshine for the start of Stage Six in town of Sidmouth on the Jurassic Coast.
“What a great atmosphere!” said Adrian Watkins from the Dorset town of Charmouth who watched the start with his wife Louise.
“People have turned out in their thousands because they want to see their heroes in the flesh,” he added.
Steve Wood, travelled 130 miles from his home on the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall to follow the race from the start.
“Everyone is getting the vibe for cycling and this event really puts Devon on the map,” he said.
“I wanted to follow the face around Devon. But even though I’m a keen cyclist, it would have a mission to have travelled up on my bike!”
Former British Army Royal Engineer Philip Grove said: “The atmosphere here is amazing and it’s a great day for the town. Some of my friends are cycling all the way to the finish.”
The riders, also including Mark Cavendish, passed through Honiton, Tiverton and Bickleigh before heading in Exeter, where thousands more supporters welcomed them into the city centre.
Keith Frobisher, 73 from Dawlish, who watched the race on the High Street, said: “These guys are amazingly fit and dedicated. We’ve become a cycling country and the Tour of Britain is becoming like the Tour de France.”
David Garton, from Lapford in Mid Devon, described the event as “great for the city”. But he suggested “many people” had missed the race due to limited publicity.
The route then passed through the Teign Valley, Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey before the final ascent to the finish line on the moor.
Bill Hitchins, chairman of Dartmoor National Park Authority, said it was “delighted” to welcome the event for the fourth time, adding that it was a “unique opportunity” to showcase Dartmoor to a worldwide audience.
Derek Philips, chairman of the Heart of Devon Tourism Partnership, said the event was a “fantastic spectacle”.
Last year 220,000 spectators watched the Devon stage before Jonathan Tiernan-Locke became the first British rider to win the race.
Large team of police bikes clears the way
Large swatches of Devon ground to a halt yesterdayFRI as the Tour of Britain arrived in the county.
A team of 62 police and civilian motorcyclists ensured the cyclists had a clear path along the 85 mile (137 km) route as they enforced dozens of road closures, mainly in Sidmouth and Exeter.
The patrol team performed their own motorbike ‘sprints’ down Exeter High Street before the cyclists arrived as cheering crowds watched-on.
And business owners and traders were hoping for a day to remember, providing a final ‘end of summer’ boost.
Sidmouth café owner Steve Clarke said the race had “livened-up” the town, giving it a much-needed boost.