Some of the world’s top cyclists will be heading to Fakenham this autumn after the town was named as the starting point for a stage of this year’s Tour of Britain.
The penultimate stage of the race, on Saturday, September 12, will start at the town’s racecourse before covering a 225 kilometre route across Norfolk and Suffolk to the finish in Ipswich.
Racecourse chief executive David Hunter said the announcement was “fantastic” for both the town and the wider area.
He said: “It’s something we have been working on with the organisers and the county and district councils for some months and we’re proud to be hosting and running the start.”
The Tour previously visited Norfolk in 2011, when a stage finished at Sandringham, and 2012.
Mr Hunter said they didn’t really know how many people were likely to come to the course, but are working with neighbouring tenants to ensure every available parking space can be used on the day. Extra staff will also be brought in.
He said: “We’ve got to make sure the people who do come have an enjoyable two or three hours while they’re here.”
Officials say the Tour’s previous visits to Norfolk attracted tens of thousands of visitors and generated more than £3 million for the local economy.
And North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick said: “Our unique and beautiful countryside will be a fantastic backdrop to this world-renowned spectacle.
“I am delighted that we have been able to secure Fakenham Racecourse as the starting point for the penultimate stage and I can’t wait to join the thousands of locals and visitors to the area that will line the route to witness such a great event.
“It will be a fantastic boost to our local economy and an opportunity for us to showcase North Norfolk as a great destination for cyclists.”
Paul Smyth, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s communities committee, added: “In previous years the Tour of Britain has brought significant economic investment into Norfolk and proved to be a hugely popular event, so the race returning to the county is welcome news.
“We are the only east of England stage and as well as giving a boost to Norfolk’s profile and businesses, it may also lead to increased cycling among residents, with consequent health benefits.”
County and district council officials have joined forces with Active Norfolk and Adnams to fund the stage.
And a series of Tour-related activities and events are being planned for the summer in a bid to encourage people to take up cycling ahead of the race’s arrival.
Active Norfolk director Ben Jones said: “We are excited to build on the huge enthusiasm for cycling within the county through the return of the Tour of Britain.
“This spectacular event provides a fantastic platform to showcase why Norfolk is such a great place to visit, and working with our partners we aim to provide a host of opportunities to encourage more people of all ages to make riding a bike part of their lives.”