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Tourism agency says hosting major races is boosting county's image as a destination for cycling...

Warwickshire hopes that staging high-profile cycling events will boost cycle tourism in the county – but local campaigners say money would be better spent on safer cycling routes.

The county has hosted stages of the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour and the Ovo Energy Tour of Britain during the past four years, and the Leamington Observer reports that Shakespeare’s England, the local business and tourism agency, wants to promote the area as a cycle tourism destination.

Shakespeare’s England chief executive, Helen Peters, told the newspaper that the national press, as well as specialist cycling publications, had emphasised the county’s attractiveness as a place for cycling following the events.

“We would certainly encourage businesses to target cycle groups,” she said, adding that “often it is as simple as offering or promoting facilities such as safe storage for bikes and suggesting routes and café stops.”

Jonathan Chilvers, a Green county councillor, welcomed the initiative, but said that money also needed to be spent on safe infrastructure.

“I’m delighted the council wants to encourage cycling tourism and grow our economy in this way,” he said.

“But if it’s serious it must invest in more safe, attractive off-road routes. People don’t want to spend leisure time cycling on dangerous clogged up roads.

“Well publicised off-road routes have been really successful in other parts of the UK and with our beautiful Warwickshire countryside there’s no reason it can’t work here too,” he added.

His call for investment in infrastructure was echoed by a spokesman for Stratford Cycle Forum, who said: “Cycling on the main country roads is not a pleasant experience and it’s quite normal to be close-passed by cars doing 60 mph and more.

“The local cycling routes map only really has two off-road routes – the Greenway and the canal towpath to Wilmcote. Cycling on the main routes through town is downright awful and can frequently be dangerous.”

Jeff Clarke, Warwickshire County Council’s transport spokesman, insisted however that the council is seeking funding to pay for planned cycle routes to link communities within the county.

“The main focus for investment at the current time is on expanding cycle networks within Warwickshire’s towns and on linking urban areas where the towns lie within easy cycling distance of each other on the basis that this approach has the greatest potential to increase levels of cycling,” he explained.

“The county council has Cycle Network Developments Plans for each of Warwickshire’s main urban areas with about 60 key cycle links identified as being required to serve existing and future residential areas and to complete the core local networks.”

He added: “The council is actively working to secure the funding required to deliver these cycle routes and is currently reviewing a number of funding proposals.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.