Town will host penultimate leg of 2012 Tour of Britain.
BARNSTAPLE is set to play a showcase role in this year’s Tour of Britain cycle race.
The town will host the start of the penultimate stage of this year’s event on Saturday, September 15.
The stage seven event will also pass through Instow, Bideford, Torrington and Hatherleigh on its 106-mile route across Devon for a grandstand finish in Dartmouth.
Race highlights will be screened on ITV4 but spectators are expected to line the streets to see nearly 100 of the world’s top cyclists – including newly-crowned Olympic medallists – in action.
The race drew record crowds when it sped through Barnstaple and finished in Bideford, in September 2009.
Organisers estimated that around 14,000 people lined the stage finish along Bideford Quay to watch Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen take the Yellow Jersey.
At the time, Tour of Britain officials said the stage four crowds in Devon and Somerset were the biggest the race had ever seen.
They are hoping to build on the Olympic fever of London 2012 and create an even bigger buzz this time around.
Speaking at the national launch of the 2012 Tour, held in Guildford, Surrey, today (Thursday), Hugh Roberts, chief executive of The Tour organisers Sweetspot Group, said spectators could look forward to a real treat as the Tour reaches its climax in Devon.
He said: “We always enjoy returning to Devon because it offers some of the most spectacular scenery and exciting racing.
“And in this most important of years for British sport, we are looking forward to giving cycling fans the opportunity to see the best professional riders in the world competing on UK roads.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highways, said: “With the event so close to the Olympic Games there’s sure to be an even bigger buzz about this year’s race and hopefully we’ll get to see some Olympic medallists racing through the county.
“As the penultimate stage, Devon could prove to be the decisive stage of the race, which is an added bonus for spectators.”
It is estimated that over the past three years, Britain’s premier cycle race has brought an additional £14 million into the local economy as well as showcasing the county to a global television audience.
Cllr Will Mumford, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy, said: “The Tour has established itself as a firm fixture in Devon, attracting impressive crowd numbers which has generated vital income for the local economy.
“This year’s route is another showcase for our beautiful coast and countryside, illustrating that Devon is the perfect venue for such a prestigious event and a premier destination for cycling tourism.”
Among the 16 world-class teams taking part are Sky Professional Cycling Team, Garmin-Barracuda and Vacansoleil. It will also be the debut Tour of Britain for Liquigas-Cannondale and GreenEDGE.
Plymouth-based rider Jon Tiernan Locke thrilled the home crowd last year, taking maximum points from the Skoda King of the Mountains climbs at Dartmoor National Park. He went on to win the Skoda King of the Mountains jersey and finished fifth overall in the Tour.
Endura have also been confirmed as one of the teams who will compete over the eight days, giving Jon Tiernan Locke the opportunity to defend his title. Jon said: “It’ll be a great occasion to have Britain’s best cycle race back in our local area.
“I’m definitely keen to ride in The Tour of Britain again. Last year went really well and it was truly special being on my local roads.
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