Picture gallery: Uttlesford celebrates 100-day countdown to Tour de France
PUBLISHED: 16:20 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:20 28 March 2014
The 100-day countdown until the world’s most famous race reaches Uttlesford starts now. And the excitement is building.
"“For Saffron Walden, the Tour will highlight cycling on the worldwide stage – it is priceless advertising for the area”."
Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Co will put the district on the worldwide stage when the Tour de France passes through the area on July 7.
To mark the 100-day countdown, a motley crew of eager but very amateur cyclists – including the Reporter’s Sam Tonkin – rode the Saffron Walden section of the Tour.
Organised by Uttlesford District Council in conjunction with Newdales bike shop on Hill Street, Saffron Walden, the event was aimed at sparking local interest in the prestigious and historic race.
Liam Brook, owner of Newdales, said: “For Saffron Walden and Uttlesford, the Tour will highlight cycling on a worldwide stage.
“Seeing the very best coming through the town will stimulate interest in cycling, especially in the younger generation. They will see that cycling is a professional sport, and they can look beyond the usual sport – there are choices and options.
“It will also be priceless advertising for the town and the area.”
The band of cyclists was coached through the streets of Saffron Walden by professional Callum Riley, of the Walden Velo cycling club, and George Peasgood, an up-and-coming star of the WaldenTri club.
As young sportsmen, the pair are keen to see a lasting legacy imprinted on the town by the Tour’s visit.
“For young people especially it will show something a bit different – what better way to promote the sport than by seeing the world’s best coming through the town,” said Riley.
“[It] coming through the area will be fantastic for everyone. It will bring thousands of people here and really put us on the map.”
Peasgood added: “Cycling has definitely seen an uptake locally since the London Olympics and this can only help to increase interest. The Tour will be an inspiration to many children and young people particularly.”
Cllr Howard Rolfe, a cabinet member at UDC who accompanied an eclectic mix of riders on the short soiree as part of the countdown event, described the Tour as a “great opportunity” for the area.
“It was nice to be involved in the 100-day countdown event,” he told the Reporter.
“The point is, this is happening and we should be celebrating and making the most of it. The Tour will generate a lot of interest and it will be good for business.
“Hopefully it will create a legacy. Even while I was cycling [today] I was thinking ‘I should be doing more of this’. So there is a real capacity for it to inspire a great many people.”
When asked what part Uttlesford was playing in creating a local legacy from the historic occasion, Cllr Rolfe added: “We’ve made good progress with the cycle path between Saffron Walden and Audley End, and there is another being scoped between Saffron Walden and Hinxton. That would provide a link between Saffron Walden and Cambridge and that must be an aspiration.
“Cycle paths are something we certainly need to do our best about.
“Public health is another key area that we have, and will continue, to focus on. Any kind of recreation is good, particularly if it leads to better health and wellbeing.”
The start of the Tour de France – the grand départ – sets off in Leeds on July 5.
The third leg of the peloton, Cambridge-London, starts on July 7. It will reach into parts of South Cambridgeshire, Uttlesford and Braintree, passing through Hinxton, Saffron Walden, Radwinter, The Sampfords, Felsted and Finchingfield.
The Tour’s arrival in Uttlesford coincides with the eight-day Saffron Walden Carnival, from July 5-12.
Carnival organisers, the Saffron Walden Round Table, have teamed up with Walden Velo to host their own ‘Carnival Tour Sportive’ on July 6. The mass-participation, sold-out event will see 1,000 people cycle the route 24 hours before the world’s top competitors.