Crowds gather in Bury St Edmunds for the start of the Women’s Tour

SportsAid riders set off at 8am, Laura Wright and Danny Crates lead the way past Abbeygate
SportsAid riders set off at 8am, Laura Wright and Danny Crates lead the way past Abbeygate
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Anticipation is building as the opening stage start of the Aviva Women’s Tour is but moments away from starting.

Crowds have been gathering on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, for hours, hopeful of securing the best spot from which to see the world’s top women cyclists set off at the start of their five-day race.

Sporting soprano Laura Wright as she set off from Bury St Edmunds earlier today

Sporting soprano Laura Wright as she set off from Bury St Edmunds earlier today

Among them is self-confessed cycling fanatic Yvonne Bensley who thought last year’s race finish in the town was ‘fabulous’.

She has travelled from Wyndom, near Norwich, to watch this morning’s event and says she will be at the front cheering for the athletes, particularly Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Joanna Rowsell.

“I’m getting all worked up,” she said. “I shall talk about this for days after.”

Last night the 16 international teams, which include British teams Matrix Fitness, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International and Wiggle Honda, were introduced to the town at a riders’ presentation, staged in Charter Square.

Neil Anthony, from Chevington, said: “It was excellent to see the teams. What was good was learning about the technical side of it from all the different cyclists - you got the feeling it was really setting up an international race.”

He is keen to see more cycle routes being built as part of the tour’s legacy in the town, especially into Bury from its surrounding villages.

Charlotte Maguire, from Risby, said she was pleased to see a women’s sporting event receive so much attention and had enjoyed watching primary school children present their adopted teams with good luck banners.

She said: “I thought it was great how they incorporated the community with the international teams through using the primary schools - it meant that people could really identify with it.”

Cllr Robert Everitt said: “I think it’s amazing to have the race back in the town again, but it’s because of the local support from last year - it was the competitors that wanted to come back here again, which I think is really nice. And, on that basis, I hope it’s a really great turnout for the first leg of the race.”

Sporting soprano Laura Wright led the tour off at 8am today and should be well on her way to today’s race finish in Aldeburgh by now.

Local cyclists, including 10 lucky Bury Free Press winners, will be taking part in a pre-race ride out from Angel Hill to St Mary’s Square at 10.45am, followed by race participants who will be setting off at 11am.