THOUSANDS of cyclists and spectators were in Mildenhall at the weekend for their own homage to the cycling Olympians.
The groundwork of Victoria Pendleton’s shining career was laid by Mildenhall Cycling Club, where she trained, and this was its 26th event in the town.
Crowds visited the the Sheldrick Way site of Mildenhall College for the three-day event which offered a family day out, trade stands, entertainments for children and cycling challenges for the riders. There were just under 400 campers who, despite the torrential downpour on Saturday early evening, were undeterred.
Parking on the field next to the site was closed on the Sunday and Monday after the farmer had to use tractors to tow cars parked on the field off the site when they became stuck after the furious downpour.
Club chairman Mark Burchett paid tribute to farmer Tom Tuffs and his son Thomas who worked well into the night and the next day to free the stranded vehicles.
He estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 people visited the rally with 2,000 people on site.
He said: “I think there’s been more interest post the Olympics and that was noticeable on Sunday when there were the most people I have ever seen watching the grass track. The course was lined completely and four to five people deep at the home straight. I think this is partly due to the standing of Mildenhall in the world of cycling,”
The sport’s popularity was also reflected in the fact that 80 under-16s took part in their events.
Mark also praised local residents for their co-operation after parking spilled out into surrounding roads when the farm field closed.
The club has a membership of 90 and a growing interest in the sport from young people.
Forest Heath District Council conducted surveys at the rally to ascertain the economic impact of the event, its visitor demographic, local involvement and opportunities for sponsorship.
Simon Batey, strategic tourism development officer, said: “This is a great spectacle and it’s free.
“We want to make sure local people know they have a great event on their doorstep and that they can come along and support it.”
Sport report – see Page 118