Fans prepare for the Suffolk return of The Women’s Tour
With stage one of The Women’s Tour fast approaching on June 6, people are gearing up to welcome some of the world’s best female cyclists to Suffolk.
The route will be 88.2 miles (142km), starting in Colchester before going through Capel St Mary, Hadleigh, Bildeston (twice), Stowmarket, Needham Market and Lavenham, before ending on Angel Hill, in Bury St Edmunds.
With the biggest field of competitors ever this year – 108 riders from 18 teams – the tour will bring cycling fans from all over to enjoy the race.
One of those is Paul Moss, chairman of Stowmarket and District Cycle Club.
“I’m thrilled to have The Women’s Tour back in Suffolk,” he said.
“It is brilliant to have elite level sport coming through the towns and villages of Suffolk and I really hope that we continue to get the tour every year. I feel we are The Women’s Tour’s spiritual home.”
The cycling club, known for its distinctive yellow and black kit, has around 160 members ranging in age from 14 to over 70.
It also has a proud heritage of being one of the oldest in the country, having documented evidence of activities dating back to 1881.
Paul hopes with the tour making its Suffolk return, it will get more people into cycling.
He said: “I am hoping that it will inspire more to enjoy the thrills of cycle racing or just to show that cycling is cool, a great sport to participate in and a great way to get fit and to get around.
“The more people we can inspire to ride a bike on the roads of Suffolk the more we can influence the attitudes of councillors and influencers to believe that cycling is the solution to all our problems of health and obesity, climate change, traffic congestion and mental health.
“That is rather a bold statement but the more people we can get to ride a bike on a regular basis the better the world will be.”
Paul also feels the growing popularity in the race itself can only have a positive effect all round.
He said: “Not only has the tour gained hugely in popularity it has also gained a high level of respect in the female pro scene, attracting the very best in female cyclists.
“Having Olympic and world class female riders racing on the roads of Suffolk really helps show female sport in a positive way and helps massively to increase the appeal of cycling. Worldwide TV coverage also helps to show Suffolk as a progressive and welcoming county.”
Another one of the clubs on the route is Hadleigh Cycling Club.
The club,which has around 80 members and encourages cycling for all, has recognised fewer women on bikes than men over the years so has run sessions aimed at building confidence and set up support systems.
Mike Motteram, club chairman, said: “We have had a very good up take and now there are groups of women who ride regularly together. We have also supported girls in our junior cycling programme.
“The tour provides a terrific opportunity to promote cycling as well as to encourage women and girls to get out on their bikes. We are delighted The Women’s Tour is returning to Suffolk and are especially pleased riders will be flying through Hadleigh.”
Some schools on the route are also getting ready for the road race.
This includes South Lee School, in Bury St Edmunds, whose acting headteacher, Sarah Catchpole, said the tour was a great example of females in sport and provided great role models for its pupils.
She said: “We believe that this is an incredibly important event for students in Reception to Year 8 to engage with. It showcases the hard work and dedication that is put into the race from the cyclists and their support teams.
“In the past we have found our pupils to be inspired by events such as these and to try something new. We are already looking forward to taking some children to the finish line and cheering the cyclists on as they cross over it.”
Highlights of The Women’s Tour, between June 6 and 11, will be shown on ITV4 in the UK, around the world via Eurosport and GCN.