THE town turned out when cycling’s Tour of Britain pedalled into Bury St Edmunds.
By the time the race started at 10.15am on Saturday, Angel Hill and the tour’s route out of it were packed. Most were cycling fans who cheered when they saw someone famous.
The biggest cheer was for top UK rider Mark Cavendish, though the leader at Bury’s start of the seventh stage was Dutchman Lars Boom.
He wore the leader’s gold jersey and received the Prostate Cancer points jersey from Kathy Gosling, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for sport, culture, diversity, health and wellbeing.
As cycling affects almost all her responsibilities, she was enthusiastic. “It has a huge impact on promoting sport locally. It’s one of the healthiest sports you can do and people can participate at all levels,” she said.
St Edmundsbury Mayor Christopher Spicer said he was honoured to be starting the race and stressed: “It puts Bury on the map because people come to Bury for this and see it’s a pleasant historic town and a quality market town and we hope they’ll return.”
Last year’s event is thought to have brought £2.5 million to the county.
Among the crowd was 81-year-old Derek Buckle, from Needham, near Diss, who rode in the first Tour of Britain in 1951. He recalled: “It was in its infancy then and you never had all these road closures or all this spectacle. This makes it more interesting.”
But the closures made the event a mixed blessing for Cycle King on Angel Hill. Director Mark Baker said in his empty shop: “I’m sure the town as a whole will benefit and anything that promotes cycling is good, but every time they close the road it hits our business. At this time on a Saturday we’d usually be very busy. This will cost us several thousand pounds.
“Normally if the road was closed on a Saturday we’d make it up on the Sunday, but that won’t happen this time because of the Battle of Britain remembrance tomorrow.”