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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Cheering crowds lined the streets today to catch a glimpse of their sporting heroes and welcome the UK’s biggest professional bicycle race into Cumbria.

Cycling superstars Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish stunned near-hysterical crowds outside a tiny pub near Penrith, last night. No one had expected to catch a glimpse of Team Sky’s headline acts until they appeared in Carlisle this morning, for the start of stage four of the Tour of Britain. In Carlisle hotel and bed & breakfast establishments were booked out as crowds flocked to the city to watch the spectacle.
Almost 300 people had optimistically lined the streets outside the Strickland Arms in Great Strickland, where Team Sky members were to present landlords Anton and Penny Flaherty with a signed yellow jersey in recognition of their support during the Tour de France.
Amid camera flashes, screams and cheers, Wiggins and Cavendish emerged from the team bus. Wiggins said the reception was “overwhelming”.
“To get a reception like this in a small village is mad,” he continued, “but this is that [Olympic] legacy they keep going on about in London. It’s about bringing the games to everyone.”
Wiggins had held the pack in yesterday’s stage of the Tour de Britain, allowing Cavendish to sprint to the finish and win the Dumfries stage for the second consecutive year.
The Manx sprinter said he was pleased with his win, and reassured fans that his shoulder is recovering well after the nasty tumble he took in stage one.
“It’s sore at the moment though,” Cavendish added, “because people keep patting me on the back.”
While adamant he is not a celebrity and that the fans were there for Wiggins, – “I didn’t win anything,” Cavendish insisted – the 27-year-old welcomed the rise in cycling. He said: “Who would have thought five years ago cycling would be our national sport? It’s really exciting to see.”
The Tour of Britain was set to return to the city for stage four of the race, with many Cumbrians still buzzing from an amazing summer for British sport.
Sara Varian, head teacher of Crosby-on-Eden School, said nearly 30 “very excited pupils” would be among those soaking up the atmosphere. “It’s a great thing for the kids and they are very all excited,” she said. “There will be 28 children, with 15 cycling to the event.” We will be watching it from just by the castle on the bank.”
The build-up to the race was due to start with a celebration of cycling from 9 am onwards including an awards ceremony near to the Old Town Hall for the 17 schools taking part in the event. Ellie Dickinson, of
Trinity School,was amomg those nominated for their contribution to cycling.
Dr Joe Hendry, leader of Carlisle City Council, was thrilled that the race was here and that pupils from 16 schools will get free cycle coaching as part of the Tour of Britain legacy.
He said: “The most important thing is the involvement of schools and young people. To have Olympians here is tremendous. The fact that the cycle authorities are going to give mentoring to those children is a great opportunity. Those who have come to see [the start of the leg] will never forget it for the rest of their lives.”
He added: “Every bed & breakfast in Carlisle was packed last night. It’s an opportunity to showcase what a special city we have. It will do us nothing but good.
“We’ve demonstrated to the world that we can host big events.”


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