Tour of Britain gets a million fans out on the streets

Three million more follow race on TV

by Simon_MacMichael   October 26, 2009  

Edvald Boasson Hagen savours winning the 2009 Tour of Britain

This year’s Tour of Britain was “a resounding success” according to race organizers SweetSpot, attracting more than a million people onto the nation’s streets to watch the race go by, with a further 3 million catching ITV4’s coverage of the eight-day race.

The race, which got underway on Saturday 12 September in Scunthorpe, finished in the country’s capital the following weekend with a closed circuit race in the City of Westminster and the City of London on a route that passed the Houses of Parliament, Cleopatra’s Needle and the Tower of London, among other landmarks.

According to the organisers, that stage alone brought 150,000 spectators onto the streets to watch Barloworld’s young Italian sprinter Michele Merlo take the sprint and Columbia HTC’s Edvald Boassen-Hagen win the overall race, with the stage marking the first time that the streets of central London had ever been closed on a Saturday for a major sporting event.

If road.cc’s experience of the London stage is anything to go by, that crowd comprised a mixture of hardcore British cycling fans and tourists who were happy to have stumbled across a showpiece sporting event, with Dutch and Italian passers-by being particularly enthusiastic.

The finale in London also attracted a number of curious locals who had watched Britain’s cycling success in the Olympics – more than one expressed disappointment at Sir Chris Hoy’s absence – who were happy to turn out and watch the race, which surely ranks as a positive for the organisers in attracting new fans to the sport.

SweetSpot also hailed the success of events organised around the Tour of Britain, including The Prostrate Cancer Charity Tour Ride held in advance of Stage 5 in Stoke-on-Trent, and the turnout of schoolchildren in Somerset and Devon to cheer the peloton on in Stages 6 and 7.

Tour of Britain CEO, Hugh Roberts, said: “The 2009 race was a great success. The crowd numbers, and the number of school children that attended the race were a big step forward for us, and this shows that cycling as a sport is growing exponentially in its national popularity. We at The Tour of Britain are extremely pleased to be a key part of this process.”