Tour of Britain Day - Hexham Courant

10th September 2015

Blaze of red and yellow greets Tour of Britain

HARDLY a fence post or a stretch of roadside lay untouched as bicycles and bunting were strung out in preparation for the day the Tour of Britain came to Tynedale.
 
 
Police out-riders greet the spectators in Prudhoe. *Photo: T3715102
Children from Mickley First School get on their bikes on the route during warm-up events ahead of the start of the stage.   *Photo: T371594
The peloton passes Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall. Photo by Helen Smith
 
Communities along the route pulled out all the stops to ensure the district looked its best last Thursday as the event threw the international spotlight on the Tyne Valley.

Wooler, Alnwick and Warkworth were all on the route last Wednesday as Stage Four brought the event from the Scottish Borders into Northumberland, before the finish at Blyth.

And on Thursday, it was the start of Stage Five in Prudhoe which saw the town decked in the red and yellow colours of the Northumberland flag, as Sir Bradley Wiggins and his team mates were among around 108 cyclists taking to Tynedale’s roads.

As early as 8am, the start line at Prudhoe was a hive of activity, and it wasn’t long before the town’s Front Street was lined with thousands of people.

Some of them were Lycra-clad cycling enthusiasts who had travelled from further afield, such as John Dickson, who had pedalled from South Shields to be part of the historic day.

 

Crowds cheered as stars such as Mark Cavendish and Wiggins were introduced on a specially constructed stage, with the latter claiming he “didn’t realise Newcastle was so close to the Lake District.”

Before the race got under way, children of Mickley First School had their five minutes of fame, when they set off for a special mini-race from the start line.

Local businesses got in on the act, offering refreshments to the masses, while pints were being pulled at the West Wylam Inn before mid-morning.

Once the race got under way at 11am, the cyclists pedalled through Prudhoe to rapturous applause from the masses, and screams from elated children.

Mayor of Prudhoe, Coun. Eileen Burt, said: “I’m so proud of the efforts made by everyone in Prudhoe, from the street decorations to the fantastic turnout on the day.

“Some people have taken the day off work to be out here, and it will go down in history as a very special day for Prudhoe.”

Jean Lawson, a Prudhoe resident of 46 years said: “We’ve had Royal visits here and of course the Olympic Torch relay. Such national events really bring the community together and I just love them.”

Dozens of decorated bikes lined the streets of Mickley and Stocksfield, as the riders made their way along the A695, past crowds of youngsters from Mickley and Broomley First Schools, as well as residents young and old, who’d taken to the streets in anticipation.

A bike painted on the road, just east of Riding Mill‘s Broomhaugh roundabout, marked the start of the race proper, as riders upped their pace to begin the climb through the village.

A best decorated bicycle competition, organised by Broomhaugh and Riding Parish Council, ensured the village looked a picture as the race whizzed through.

Villager Linda Shepherd, who won the adult competition with her depiction of the life story of a cyclist, described the whole experience as “super”, while brothers Matthew (3) and Daniel (5) Hunter donned yellow hats to watch the cyclists pass by their winning entry in the children‘s category.

As the police outriders and support vehicles signalled the race was en route to Hexham, the town came to a standstill as hundreds paused to take in the spectacle.

Hexham Middle School were among the students who turned out in force along the route to support riders, and the school even came up with a novel way to mark the event in the school grounds.

Year Six students took to the school field with their white boards and planners, bearing the Northumberland flag, to create the shape of a bike.

Pupils making up the wheels even perfected walking in a circle to create the illusion of movement.

Meanwhile, students from St Joseph‘s Middle School were among those who not only got a chance to have a front row view of the action, but they were also given the chance to try it for themselves when a street velodrome pitched up in Hexham’s Wentworth Car Park.

“Anyone can have a go,” said one of the velodrome‘s staff member, Jade Amey, who was one of the team supervising riders brave

enough to take on the steep slopes on two wheels.

“We were in Blyth for the end of Stage Four and really anyone, from age three to 63, has been giving it a go.”

St Joeseph’s pupils Sam Baty (10) and Enya Stoves (10), who is also a member of Derwentside Cycling Club, were among the youngsters trying to achieve the speediest laps as the town prepared for the arrival of the peloton.

Coun. Anne Dale, county councillor for Stocksfield, Mickley and Riding Mill, is also chairman of the council‘s cycling and walking board. She said: “It has been so wonderful to see so many schools taking part in the Tour of Britain activities and I hope more children will be inspired to cycle and walk.”

Acomb couple Steve and Pat Gray spent three days following the Tour around the North.

They were lucky enough to witness the end of Stage Three at Floors Castle, Kelso and the conclusion of Stage Four in Blyth, before watching the race pass through Hexham.

“I’m in awe of every single one of them,” said Pat. “You don’t appreciate the speed until you get up close.”

Nine-year-old Josh Webb, who attends Hexham-based One Life Racing club‘s junior cycling sessions, was one of the lucky cyclists who got to try out the sprint section on Priestpopple and Battle Hill in Hexham, before the race tore through.

The youngster said it “felt like Christmas” to be able to pedal part of the route taken by his heroes from Team Sky and Alberto Contador from Team Tinkoff.

After negotiating the Langley Bends, cyclists would have been forgiven had they chosen to stop in Haydon Bridge, such was the array of refreshments available in the grounds of St Cuthbert’s Church.

There was a carnival atmosphere, with local musicians providing the soundtrack for a day when villagers turned out in numbers.

While the two bridges and Church Street were good vantage points, many people headed up the North Bank for an elevated view of the action.

At the north side of the village was a giant Northumberland flag, which was hand made by volunteers.

“It was over very quickly,” said Kevin Moore, who was part of a team of local people who put up bunting and painted bicycles in preparation for the big day, “but when you look at the way it has brought everybody together, it makes it all worthwhile.

“There has been a big effort from the whole village. We’ve got the photographs and the memories which will stay with us.”

After Haydon Bridge, the tour headed along the Military Road and deep into Hadrian’s Wall Country, at Twice Brewed and onto Greenhead and Gilsland.

As residents welcomed the passing cyclists, Gilsland Village Hall was opened up for a Tour of Britain themed exhibition to promote the work of local artists and crafts people, and also to showcase community businesses and organisations.

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Coun. 
Grant Davey, said: “Northumberland has welcomed the Tour of Britain with open arms and the two stages of the race have been celebrated with tremendous enthusiasm across the county.

“Postcard images of our iconic landmarks including Hadrian’s Wall and the Northumberland coastline and castles have been broadcast all over the world and everyone can be proud of all the hard work they have put in to make the race such a success in Northumberland.”

16.09.2015 16:05