Thousands of people headed to Fakenham at the weekend to watch the start of the penultimate stage of this year’s Tour of Britain.
A total of 110 riders departed from the town’s racecourse on Saturday morning to embark on a 227 kilometre route through Norfolk and Suffolk to the finish line in Ipswich.
Officials estimate that around 3,000 people headed to the course to catch a glimpse of leading riders including Sir Bradley Wiggins.
However, fans of Mark Cavendish were left disappointed after the ‘Manx Missile’ was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury, following a crash on the previous day’s stage from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham.
Officials admitted that some would-be spectators may have been put off attending by the showery weather.
But, despite that, David Hunter, the racecourse’s chief executive, was delighted by what he described as the “slick procedure” of staging the event and setting the riders on their way.
He said: “It’s been a really good atmosphere. It’s gone very well and I’m grateful to my team, the district council and the county council. I’m very pleased.”
Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, added: “It’s really good for the district as a whole, but Fakenham in particular.
“It’s bringing people into the area, spending money. Lots of them will stay and enjoy the beautiful countryside and our wonderful coast as well.
“It’s also meeting our health and fitness agenda. We want to see as many people as possible out on their bikes.”
The race was started by former Norfolk County Council chairman Hilary Cox, who is the authority’s cycling and walking champion.
Ahead of the professionals’ departure, dozens of school children took part in their own ride setting off from the same starting point as their heroes.
Many community groups and cycling organisations also had stands at the track during the morning.
And Hugh Jamieson, of the North Norfolk Wheelers cycling club, said events like the Tour were helping to maintain the surge of popularity that cycling has enjoyed in recent years.
He said: “It’s helped to put cycling back on the map. There’s lots of people here who are seeing what fun cycling can be.”
After leaving Fakenham, the race passed through Reepham, Norwich, Aylsham and Attleborough before crossing the border into Suffolk.
The stage was won by German sprinter Andre Greipel, ahead of Italy’s Elia Viviani and Sondre Holst Enger.
But it was another Norwegian rider, Edvald Boassen Hagen, who was celebrating overall victory when the Tour reached its climax in London on Sunday afternoon.