Notts ready to welcome cycling legends as Tour of Britain races through city
NOTTS is gearing up to welcome cycling legends when the Tour of Britain races through the city on Monday.
It will be the first time since 2005 that the eight-stage race, the biggest professional cycling event in Britain, has visited Nottingham.
Crowds are expected to be out in force to see Olympic gold medallist and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and teammate Mark Cavendish, also the current world road race champion.
As part of team Sky, the pair will start the stage at 10am outside Nottingham Castle along with 100 other top riders in 16 professional teams.
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City cycling clubs say they hope keen riders and cycling novices alike will grab the opportunity to see the history-makers.
Making up the crowd will be Adrian Pugh, 48, a member of Beeston Road Club.
He said: "It feels like a much bigger event this year than the last time it was here. You don't see world-class sportsmen in your back yard often.
"It's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a Tour de France winner in Nottingham.
"In football terms it's like Brazil or Spain coming to play a competitive match in Nottingham."
Monday's 110-mile second stage of the event will begin with a "neutralised" non competitive ride-out through city centre streets, allowing people to glimpse the riders before they launch in to full racing pace.
It will run through several city centre locations including the Old Market Square and Upper Parliament Street, where some of the biggest crowds are expected to gather.
It will then head out of town to Wollaton Park and Trowell then on to Derbyshire, before finishing in Knowsley, Merseyside.
Activities in the Old Market Square will include an outdoor roadshow run by the Big Wheel, the sustainable transport group, including bikes to try out for free, a free bike maintenance service and information about cycling.
Jenny Harwood, a coach at the Nottingham Clarion Cycling Club, which meets at Holme Pierrepont, said: "This event is fantastic for the sport.
"I think the Olympics and what Bradley Wiggins did at the Tour de France in the summer brought it in to more people's minds – but people perhaps still don't realise what an achievement it was for him to win that. Now he's coming to Nottingham.
Jenny, 49, has been a club member since she was 12 and will be in the cheering crowds with her club-mate and husband Paul on Monday.
She added: "For people who are in to the sport in Notts it's the culmination of having everyone in one place at the same time."
Monday will also be a homecoming for the professional Nottingham-based Raleigh-GAC team, who are also competing in the tour.
Following a tough training camp in Spain and recent races in Belgium, the team are going in to the tour in high spirits.
Team manager Cherie Pridham says she has identified several key stages where the team can pick up results against some of the world's best cyclists. She said: "We've got a great blend of riders so we're confident that we can do the Raleigh name proud.
"Monday's route goes close to Raleigh's home in Eastwood so I know the boys will be going all out to impress the teamsponsors and do their home city proud."
Councillor Jon Collins, Nottingham City Council's leader and a fellow cycling enthusiast, said: "Confirmation of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in the Tour is great news for all fans of cycling. Bradley Wiggins' success has captured the imagination of many people, not only fans of cycling.
"Having two of the world's greatest road cyclists in Nottingham is great for the city and for the sport of cycling."
The tour finishes in Guildford, Surrey, next Sunday.
Facial hair tribute to king of cycling in 2012
Bradley Wiggins will be welcomed to Notts by a group of cyclists making an unusual effort to copy their hero.
The team of amateur riders from Bleasby, near Newark, are all growing sideburns in honour of the Olympic champion and Tour de France winner.
Wiggins, 32, affectionately known as "Wiggo", has been gaining fans for his facial hair as well as his performances on two wheels.
The group of men, known as the Bleasby Bikers, are growing their own "chops" both to honour him and prepare for a marathon cycle ride for charity.
They are attempting a 110-mile route to raise £6,000 for Bleasby C of E Primary School and Prostate Cancer UK.
The 35 men taking part all live in or near the village and are dads of children at the school.
They will ride out from the village to the Humber Estuary, following the course of the River Trent, next Saturday, September 15.
Dad-of-two and Bleasby Bikers member Martin Done, 49, said: "Someone at the group was saying that what Bradley Wiggins achieved at the Tour de France and Olympics was such an inspiration, so we just set out growing some big old sideburns in his honour. We've all got partners and jobs to hold down – so we're not going for huge ones."
Last year the group also managed to raise £4,500 for the school by cycling to Skegness.
Starting out two years ago with only a handful of members from the village, the group now has at least 15 turn up to its regular Sunday rides and is still growing.
Richard Ford, 48, a founder member and co-ordinator of the group, will don some stick-on sideburns for the ride as opposed to cultivating the real thing.
He added: "Cycling is something anyone can do regardless of size or fitness. The group has sort of connected people as well and helped people in the village get together. I think Bradley Wiggins and his image have caught on because he comes across as a family man and he's got a very sensible approach."