“WOW, WOW, WOW!!!! CONGLETON – you’ve given us a fantastic reception”
This was one of the many messages posted by the Tour of Britain organisers as they recognised that Congleton had given them one of the noisiest, busiest and colourful starts to a race day in years.
126 elite cyclists set off from Congleton at 11.15am on Tuesday 6th September to a cacophony of hooters, horns and bells from over 10,000 spectators. Top cyclists from around the world, including crowd favourites Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, spent time signing autographs and praising the area before being introduced on the podium then setting off on the 179km four hour race around Cheshire East.
BBC North West interviewed Town Mayor David Brown and Town Councillor Suzie Akers Smith about the race and reported that Congleton was having ‘a huge party for its pivotal role in a massive national event’ and the town and its great community spirit was also highlighted on the ITV4 Tour of Britain footage as well as discussed on numerous radio stations during and after the event.
Helping entertain the crowd on the day were: Silk FM, street performers on unicyclists, a bike balloon bender, Rode Hall Silver band, Eric and his puppets and face painting. Many of the town’s pubs and cafes opened from 7am for eager spectators coming into town early, while the Avenue of Ale pop up beer parlour provided entertainment and refreshments both on the day and for three days in the lead-up to the race. Cheshire Police, Cheshire Fire Brigade, Congleton Cycling Campaign, Sustrans and Everybody Leisure also helped entertain and educate the crowds before and after the event.
Around 200 children and 50 adults, largely from Blackfirs and Marlfields schools, along with a number of cyclists from local clubs, took to the roads immediately after the peloton and were waved on and cheered by the crowds.
Congleton geared up for stage 3 of the Tour of Britain weeks in advance of the event. There was fabulous support from the local business community and Cheshire East Council. Congleton Town Council was able to start decorating the town weeks in advance with 50 orange bikes and bike sculptures, lamp post banners, railing banners and for the first time, fitted banners on Rood Hill. Young people from Visyon worked on a start flag in art workshops and Congleton Community Projects co-ordinated t-shirts to decorate Morrison’s Wall and festival flags throughout the town.
Around 200 local cyclists took part in a cycling sportive covering 86 miles of the route on Sunday 4th September, raising around £2,500 for North West Air Ambulance and the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust www.cheshiretobsportive.co.uk
More than 30 shops dressed their windows in celebration of the Tour of Britain with some great creative, colourful and innovative creations. First place went to H J Lea Oakes in High Town, Second place to Shakeeze and joint Third to Bare Health and R J and J Moore Greengrocers. A special mention goes to the shops in High Town which produced the most concentrated number of excellent windows.
Hundreds of children completed the search for Tour of Britain shirts in Congleton shops, with each completed entry winning a bike bell. One lucky winner, five year old Isobel Hayes, was presented with a cycle shirt and teddy on the Tour of Britain Podium.
Post race, the Town Council and local cycling groups are continuing to keep up the pressure for more safe cycling routes in and around the town and ultimately a county park where all types of cycling from BMX to mountain and toddler bikes can be accommodated.
Highlights from Tour Day: