The 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain comes to Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 August 2015

Elite cyclist Paul Oldham, from Barrowford, right of the picture, on Nick o Pendle

Elite cyclist Paul Oldham, from Barrowford, right of the picture, on Nick o Pendle

Archant

Britain’s biggest cycling competition is coming to Lancashire, attracting up top 200,000 visitors. Photography by Glynn Ward

Riders and local school students at the launchRiders and local school students at the launch

Professional cyclist Ian Wilkinson looked back down the twisting Nick o’ Pendle road and said: ‘By the time we get to the top of this, we’ll be spitting feathers.’

Ian, from Chatburn, is hoping his team Raleigh GAC will select him to take part in this daunting section of the 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain. ‘There’s a lot of incentive to do well on this stage – all my friends and family will be watching.’

Ian was on the roadside for the official launch of our own Tour de Lancs. This will be the most taxing section. The Nick only lasts for just over a kilometre but the gradients average around 10 per cent and, in some sections, reach a lung-bursting 16 per cent. A young Chris Boardman won his first national hill climb championship at Nick o’ Pendle.

‘I’m really pleased the tour is coming here,’ added Ian, a pro for the last six years. ‘This is a really strong cycling area and the Ribble Valley is one of the most beautiful places. It will really show it off the area to a wider audience.’

Local school pupils Jade Haigh and Eden Burt at the launch eventLocal school pupils Jade Haigh and Eden Burt at the launch event

That’s just what Ribble Valley Borough Council leader Stuart Hirst and his opposite number at Pendle, Mohammed Iqbal, are hope when this impressive road show gets underway in Clitheroe on September 7.

Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to visit and the councils estimates it could result in a £3 million boost to the local economy. The race will be broadcast internationally by 16 television channels across 139 territories, particularly in Europe, Australia and the USA, attracting over 200 million viewers. ITV will be screening three hours of live coverage every day and a one-hour highlights programme at night.

It’s hard to imaging a better opportunity to spread the word far and wide about this lovely part of Lancashire.

Spectators will be able to see 20 of the world’s top cycling teams, including Olympic and world champions, and Tour de France stage winners, power their way through some of the north’s most beautiful spots. Whalley, Longridge, Ribchester, Chipping, Dunsop Bridge, Slaidburn and Barley are all on the route.

Pro rider Ian Wilkinson from ChatburnPro rider Ian Wilkinson from Chatburn

The tour is Britain’s biggest free spectator sporting event, attracting a huge following and its size means there will be some disruption in towns and villages along the way but officials are hoping local people, schools and businesses will use this to their advantage by turning the whole thing into a festival of cycling.

Coun Hirst said: ‘Many local people recognise the Ribble Valley as Lancashire’s hidden gem with its two towns and 44 villages set in unspoilt countryside and 70% of its area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Stage 2 route will be an opportunity to reveal some of those hidden glories to an international audience with attractions including the Norman keep of Clitheroe Castle, the 13th century Cistercian Abbey at Whalley, Pendle Hill with its witchcraft folklore and the geographical centre of the kingdom at Dunsop Bridge.

‘As spectators will also discover, these are by no means Ribble Valley’s only claim to fame. The borough is a nationally recognised destination for food and drink and is known for its award winning independent retailers. It also offers unparalleled outdoor opportunities for walking and, of course, on and off road cycling – including the UK’s premier mountain bike trails at Gisburn Forest.

‘So this is truly a ‘trail blazer’ for us in Ribble Valley and will add greatly to our credibility as an area able and eager to take on national and international events of this stature. I have no doubt will be a truly spectacular landmark event for us all.’ w

A website is being set up to give more information about the tour including the best places to watch the tour and details of road closures. Go to www.tourofbritainstage2.co.uk

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