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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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‘I’ve never seen anything like that before’

PENRITH turned out in force to see the Tour of Britain hurtle through.

An honour guard of Goretex-clad spectators lined Middlegate, undeterred by squally showers.

They included Cecily Topping, 55, of Shap, and her daughter Emma, 31, who now lives in Sweden.

Emma said: “We saw the crowds and thought we’d stop and have a look. It’s nice to see people who apply their mind and body and do what they do. It takes a special kind of person.”

Her mum added: “How do they go so fast and not come off? It takes a lot of guts.”

Arragon’s cycle shop in Brunswick Road laid on a tea party in the street to celebrate.

Co-owner Phil Graham said: “We were going to have a Tour de France theme with cheese and wine. Then we thought no, we’re British, so we’ve got tea and scones as well.”

He believes that the success of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and the Team GB cyclists at the Olympics is rekindling interest in cycling.

He said: “We’re getting quite a few bikes that have been in the shed for a while coming in for a service to get back on the road, and we’re getting parents asking for bikes for their children.”

Bang on cue, an elite group of six riders came through at 11.52am followed six minutes later by the remaining 88 heading south to Shap, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale and Blackpool.

They were preceded by motorcycle outriders and police vehicles, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, and followed by a cavalcade of support vehicles carrying bikes.

Ray Hutchinson, 65, secretary of the Penrith branch of the Royal British Legion, was waiting opposite the Legion in Middlegate with his camera.

He said: “I wanted to get a picture of them for our magazine with the Legion in the background. I got one when the Olympic flame came through as well.

“It’s a very good thing for Penrith. You can see the crowds.

“To get something of this class coming through Penrith is absolutely fantastic.”

Eddie Robertson, 28, managed to snap a picture of Bradley Wiggins on his mobile phone.

The rider’s trademark sideburns were clearly visible.

He said: “It was over so quickly. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

“It’s good to get so close to something really fast.”

Eddie and his girlfriend Sarah Sparkes, also 28, live in Devon but were on holiday at Lazonby.

Sarah added: “Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France was probably the main reason to come out and see it. I think cycling is a lot more popular now.”

Most people had come to see Messrs Wiggins and Cavendish.

But 60 year-11 pupils from Queen Elizabeth Grammar School were there for an entirely different reason, or so their teacher claimed.

Head of physics Stuart St John said: “It’s a physics lesson. We’re doing speed, distance, time, acceleration and so on. That’s what I told the headteacher who said I’d made a reasonable case to take them out of school.

“We don’t get many field trips in science.”

Shops were deserted as everyone thronged the pavements.

Some shopworkers sneaked out to get a peek too.

Laura Keen, 22, team leader at Superdrug in Middlegate, said: “I’m just trying to see if I can see anyone I recognise. I was glued to the Olympics. It’s amazing how fast they can go.”

The crowds meant Penrith’s tourist information had a busy day. Manager Charlie Thornton said: “We’ve had a lot of people in the last week or so enquiring about the Tour of Britain and Eden Council has been promoting it through Twitter and social media.

“It’s fantastic for the town. It brings in visitors and local people. Events like this can only do the town good.”


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