Preparations are now well underway to welcome the Tour of Britain to North Devon, with a programme of cycle races planned to build on the occasion.
On Friday 14 September, the evening before the start of the Tour of Britain in Barnstaple, the town will host a series of criterium bike races. These are races that give club riders of all abilities the opportunity to race for up to an hour per race, around a 1.1km tight and twisty town centre circuit.
The criterium races are being organised by local cycling club North Devon Wheelers – Southfork and have been sponsored by Barnstaple Town Council, with further support from North Devon Council, Barnstaple Town Centre Management and Whiddon Valley Engineering.
Roger Sheridan, from North Devon Wheelers – Southfork, says: “This programme of races is going to be something that has never been experienced in North Devon before. Cycle racing in the UK has really grown in popularity, and the recent success of Bradley Wiggins in the Olympics and the Tour de France, along with Mark Cavendish, Victoria Pendleton, Emma Pooley and the Sky Pro Cycling team has boosted this even more.
“The criterium races around Barnstaple will be broken down into categories, with men, women and juniors all set to put on a real treat for spectators. Cyclists that are just one step off the Tour of Britain level will form the elite race. All the racing will be extremely hard and exciting and, as it’s a small circuit, spectators will be incredibly close to all the action. So we hope as many people as possible will come into town on the evening to cheer them on.”
The races will start and finish at The Strand, taking in The Square, lower Boutport Street, High Street, Cross Street, Castle Street and part of North Walk. As a result, The Square and lower Boutport Street will be closed from 6.45pm on Friday 14 September, with restrictions expected along other streets in the town. The races are set to continue until 10pm, with the affected roads being reopened shortly afterwards. Local businesses will be fully consulted and briefed on the effect of these closures in due course.
Anyone wanting to enter the races should already be an experienced rider. More information on bike riding, racing and how to join the club can be found on the Wheelers website.
North Devon Council Leader, Councillor Brian Greenslade, says: “With a large number of spectators expected in Barnstaple over the Tour of Britain weekend, these criterium races will be an added bonus for both visitors and residents. We hope people will come down early to enjoy what the town has to offer, before cheering on the racers on Friday night and of course on the Saturday morning. As well as building on a great atmosphere, we hope the cycling weekend will also be a welcome boost to the local economy.”
Meanwhile, other events are being planned for the whole family to enjoy on Saturday 15 September. Barnstaple Mayor, Cllr Lesley Brown, says: “Businesses are being really supportive of what we’re calling Barnstaple’s Big Cycling Weekend. Many will be getting into the spirit of things by dressing up their window displays accordingly, and we’ve also got activities and entertainment going on around The Square to coincide with the start of the Devon leg of the Tour of Britain. Of course, the success of the weekend will be down to the people who come out to enjoy it, so we hope the celebrations will be really well attended.”
The Devon leg of the Tour of Britain is being organised by Devon County Council. For further information on the actual race, including the route, timings, planned events and latest news, go to www.southwesttourofbritain.co.uk. You can also follow the excitement on the Tour of Britain South West Facebook page.