It’s been mere days now since the entourage of Tour of Britain travelled through Cornwall in front of packed streets and giddy spectators – with towns and villages that took centre stage already having returned to business as usual.
Residents living at the finishing point in Bodmin said they hadn’t seen that many people packing the streets since the 1999 eclipse or the Queen’s visit during her jubilee.
Now estimated figures indicate that around 170,000 excited bystanders waiting for a glimpse of the action were out in force – prompting what will hopefully be a significant boost to the local economy.
Cornwall Council says that initial estimates indicate that the event was one of the biggest opening stage audiences race organisers SweetSpot has ever had, and certainly the largest crowd for an opening stage in the last seven years.
A detailed review of the day’s statistics and its economic effect will be carried out later this Autumn once the numbers are available, before any decision is made whether to consider hosting the event in the future.
But while it will be a few weeks until the data is in, first indications are that the Cornwall leg of the AJ Bell Tour of Britain cycle race had a record audience and gave a significant boost to the local economy after months of lockdowns.
The Cornwall stage is expected to have drawn a return of at least £3.4 million in extra Sunday trading for everything from accommodation, taxis and transport, retail and catering on what was for most the last weekend of the summer holidays.
The event had worldwide TV coverage on Eurosport, live UK coverage on ITV4 and BBC Radio 5 Live, and saw sports and news crews, photographers and journalists from across Europe and elsewhere describing Cornwall to their readers and viewers.
Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for the economy, said: “Although there will be an economic benefit to Cornwall, let’s not forget the non-monetary value of the Tour of Britain.
“The reminder to everyone that cycling is free and freeing, good for our mental and physical health, and Cornwall is the ideal place for both sports cycling and for leisure.”
“We should also recognise the ‘feelgood factor’ of thousands of people lining the route, cheering and enjoying each other’s company, and celebrating with neighbours and their community. I enjoyed the day immensely, and I think most of Cornwall did too.”
Linda Taylor, Leader of Cornwall Council, added: “It is rarely you get a countywide uplift of spirits in a single day, but everyone I saw from the start to the finish was wearing a broad smile and cheering.
“After the G7 summit as a political event, we’ve now shown the world how well we can host a great sporting event too. My thanks to all the organisers, the spectators, and of course the riders, for a day of great joy.”
Following the G7 summit in June, the Tour cycle race is seen as another strong showcase for Cornwall.
Pauline Giles, chairman of Cornwall Council, presented the unique Saint Piran award, carved from Cornish sustainable oak, to stage winner and Tokyo 2020 Silver Olympic medalist Wout van Aert.
Pauline said: “Standing on the podium in Bodmin for the winners’ presentations made me feel very proud of the enthusiastic and professional show Cornwall had put on for the Grand Depart stage of the Tour of Britain.”
“There are many teams to thank other than those amazing riders – the event organisers SweetSpot, our own Highways and Cormac experts, police, medics, the project management team, and all those community events that added so much to the atmosphere and celebration.
“A day we won’t forget for a very long time. I was able to watch the race on a big screen, and felt so proud of our communities who embraced this event, bringing joy to many after the hard 18 months we’ve endured.”
To add to the race action there was a wide range of community events from theatre to amateur cycling to live music to garden parties breathing life back into the sleepy town of Bodmin.
Cycling superstar Mark Cavendish said in Penzance: “Starting our national tour is exciting. I hope the sun comes out in Cornwall today because I know it’s a beautiful part of the world and it’ll be nice to ride it. It’s going to be hard, it’s up and down. There’s no flat here is there?”
In the event the weather was a mixture, with west Cornwall misty and damp, but later as the peloton headed east there were higher temperatures and bluer skies.
Local celebrity, Andrew Ridgely, one half of pop duo Wham, is a keen cyclist and lives near Wadebridge.
He said at the race start: “I think there will be a fair degree of excitement along the way with a good turnout of people, and lots of people at the finish. It’s a good day out for the good folk of Cornwall and the cycling community especially.”
Among other local celebrities spectating were Olympic rowing medalist Helen Glover MBE and her husband TV naturalist Steve Backshall MBE, who married near Penzance, and with their children
through the town’s Market Jew Street.
There will now be a focus on legacy from the Tour, and constantly improving Cornwall’s cycling facilities.
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