North Devon ready for The Tour of Britain
North Devon is set to play its role and add its own entertainment as The Tour of Britain cycle race comes through the county this weekend.
THE world’s top bikers are coming - and North Devon is gearing up for a spectacular welcome.
Barnstaple is all set for a Big Cycling Weekend of its own to mark the town’s central role this Saturday as the starting point for the penultimate stage of the Tour of Britain race.
Top stars will be among the racers in Britain’s biggest professional cycle race, including Tour de France and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and world road race champion Mark Cavendish.
After setting off from Barnstaple Long Bridge at 10.15am they will travel through Yelland, Instow, Bideford, Torrington, Merton and Hatherleigh in the 106-mile Stage 7 of the big race, which will take them across Devon and finish at Dartmouth.
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Great Torrington will have a special role, too, with crowds sure to be in good voice as it hosts a Yodel Sprint section in New Street, with the first racers expected there at 10.55am.
Just five minutes later at South Hill, near Little Torrington, the racers will do battle in another special section, one of three Skoda King of the Mountains hill climbs.
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Barnstaple’s build-up to the big event will start on Friday night with the town’s own Criterium Races – short distance races around the town.
Racing from 7pm-10pm, the riders will be ‘clocked’ on their journeys by young street champions from Frankmarsh and Gorwell, with the help of PCSO Steve Huxtable and speed check equipment.
Local events start early in Barnstaple Square on Saturday with the Royal Marines setting off at 8am to simulate the Tour of Britain riders’ journey on a special static machine… hills and all! They will be raising money for the Mayor of Barnstaple’s charity, Devon Air Ambulance.
Other entertainments take off at 8.30am with the first of two performances by the Jones and Barnard comedy, song and dance, juggling and uni-cycling duo.
Tour riders will start to sign on at 9am and, while spectators are awaiting the start, 30 young Bikeability riders will be chosen to take part in a Children’s Ride Out at 10am, accompanied by six Royal Marines and led by local councillor Ricky Knight on a Victorian three-wheeler.
After the Tour race has started and the peleton has left, Jones and Barnard will be back with more entertainment and the children riders will return to the square for their own race with a difference, with victory to the slowest!
Other events during the morning include roller racing – a chance to have a go at ‘virtual’ velodrome racing on static bikes – also in aid of the Mayor’s charity.
Primary school children will be creating their own versions of Barnstaple bicycles and there will be a vintage bike display.
Mayor of Barnstaple Cllr Lesley Brown said: “Barnstaple is really looking forward to welcoming the Tour of Britain compewtitors and their teams to the town. The excitement is building up by the day and we hope we have provided something for everyone to enjoy, whether they want to cheer on the peleton, take the velodrome challenge or be entertained by the antics of Jones and Barnard.”
North Devon Council leaders Brian Greenslade said: “A lot of preparation has gone into Barnstaple’s Big Cycling Weekend. With criterium races on Friday and various activities and displays on Saturday, we hope everyone will enjoy the programme of events to mark the start of the Devon stage of the Tour of Britain. As well as building on a great atmosphere, the weekend will also be a welcome boost to the local economy and, who knows, may even inspire some young cycling champions of the future.”
An independent report estimated that the 2011 Tour brought more than �3 million into Devon as thousands turned out to see it pass through.
This year the region will get an even bigger showcase as the race is being televised live, as well as highlights, on ITV4.
As the Tour passes through the county, there will be road closures in place at start and finish locations and rolling road closures along the route of the race.
Park and ride services are available off South Street in Barnstaple.
There will be fixed road closures in place in the start and finish locations and rolling road closures along the route of the race enforced by police and civilian motorcycles. The rolling road closures will only be in effect for a limited period to allow the race and race vehicles to travel through towns and villages safely and to allow people to see the event safely.
In Barnstaple on Friday, The Square, The Strand, Longbridge, High Street, Castle Street, Cross Street, Commercial Street, Lower Boutport Street (from Queen Street to The Square) and North Walk (from the Civic Centre to Castle Street) will be closed between 6.30pm and 10.15pm
On Saturday, The Square, The Strand and Longbridge will be closed from 5am to 1pm. Castle Street, Cross Street, and the inbound road on Taw Vale will be closed from 7am to 1pm.
Lower Boutport Street will also be closed from 7am to 1pm, with Queen Street to High Street closed at 10am, when the usual High Street closure starts, and High Street to The Square closed from around 9am.
All closures beyond Longbridge - ie. Station Road onwards - will be covered by the rolling road closure.