The countdown begins for the start of the Devon stage of September’s prestigious cycle race.

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BARNSTAPLE was buzzing with bicycles on Friday morning at a special launch event for the Tour of Britain cycle race.

Excitement is mounting for when the Devon stage of the race sets off from the town on Saturday, September 15 with every effort being made to make it a great spectacle and day out for the thousands expected to attend and line the route.

Devon County Council will host Stage Seven, the penultimate stage, which Tour organisers believe it could prove decisive in the eight day race in which 96 of the world’s top cyclists will compete for the IG Markets Gold Jersey.

“Last year was the first time that we had hosted a complete stage in the county and it was a great success – and as we’re the penultimate stage this year we could see the race won or lost in Devon,” said County Councillor Stuart Hughes.

“Following hot on the heels of the Olympic Games, I’m sure there will be even more excitement about this year’s Tour, and it should attract huge numbers of spectators who will have a chance to see why we’re a premier destination for cycling tourism.”

On Friday pro riders Yanto Barker and Chris Opie were in town to see what might be in store for them at the start of the Devon stage. Both are hoping their team of Team UK Youth will be selected to take part in the Tour.

According to an independent report an additional £3.1 million was spent in the county when the race passed through last year and thousands of people turned out in North Devon to watch as it passed through Barnstaple and finished in Bideford.

North Devon Coucnil Leader Brian Greenslade added: “When the race passed through the town on a previous occasion, it was enjoyed by many. So the fact that this time it’s actually starting here will mean it’ll be even bigger and better.

“This is a prestigious event that I believe will provide a massive boost to the local economy and the community as a whole.”

The county council is working closely with North Devon and Barnstaple Town councils to host what will be the only South West stage this year and a host of events are planned.

On the Friday evening before it is hoped there will be a criterium cycle race around the town, together with a variety of events to build up the atmosphere before the big one.

On the Saturday morning and into the day the Square will be the focus for entertainment, displays and activities. The race itself is expected to be led out by the Mayor of Barnstaple, Lesley Brown at around 10.15am.

The route will take it through Yelland, Instow, Bideford, Torrington, Merton and Hatherleigh before heading out of North Devon and eventually finishing on Dartmouth promenade.

For more information visit: www.southwesttourofbritain.co.uk or www.tourofbritain.co.uk.

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