Cavendish sets Peebles alight

PEEBLES, UNITED KINGDOM - 11 Sept 2011: 'Tour Of Britain'Stage 1 Start - Peebles''''(Photo by Rob Gray / Freelance )
PEEBLES, UNITED KINGDOM - 11 Sept 2011: 'Tour Of Britain'Stage 1 Start - Peebles''''(Photo by Rob Gray / Freelance )
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THE BORDERS set the scene for an exciting week of cycling action in the Tour of Britain as riders completed Stage One from Peebles to Dumfries in challenging conditions, but in front of strong support.

Mark Cavendish of Team HTC-Highroad was the first man to pull on the IG Markets Gold jersey after winning in a sprint finish, while fellow Brit Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport-Specialized) picked up the Skoda King of the Mountains Classification and Stage One Most Combative Rider honours.

Thousands of supporters filled Peebles High Street early on Sunday morning to get a close look at the 96 riders and the large accompanying cavalcade. They all set off in the sunshine and were greeted along the 170.3km route by enthusiastic supporters waving flags and home-made banners to encourage the riders through increasingly wet and windy conditions.

Cavendish said: “We had wicked support today. The amount of cheers and banners along the stage was brilliant – super-encouraging. You wouldn’t think this is Britain – it’s very different to when I last raced here in 2007. It’s very nice.”

Stuart Turner, events director for EventScotland, the national events agency commented on the popularity and growth of the event.

He said: “There was a tremendous atmosphere in Peebles for the start of the Tour with the Borders town really embracing the event. From the local cycling club leading out the riders to the local traders with their window dressing and ‘big breakfast’ offers it seemed that everyone was involved.

“This year saw the first ‘tour ride’ participation event taking place in Scotland which ran over the route the weekend before.

“This development, together with the welcome addition of a local exhibition criterium race on the Saturday night and the bonus of having the overall start of the race this year, leads us to expect that the event will bring an even greater economic benefit to Scotland that the £0.88m it achieved in 2009.”

Local authorities were also delighted with the day’s events.

Vicky Davidson, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, said: “A week of cycling activity in the Borders culminated in a fantastic send-off for the Tour of Britain in Peebles. Borderers are good at turning out to support events and I was delighted that so many people came, not just to Peebles on Saturday night and Sunday morning, but also lined the route from Innerleithen and up through Megget to Talla, which was where I watched the riders race down the very steep descent.

“As well as the spectacle on the day and the benefit to local businesses, the event provided the unique opportunity to promote the area as a cycling destination and a great place for fans and TV audiences to see what we have to offer as a place to visit.”