Cycling enthusiasts from across the North West will be oiling their bikes and donning their favourite race bibs as the Tour de France is set to come through Rochdale in less than a week.
The 101st edition of the Tour de France will begin on July 5 in Leeds before finishing on the famous Champs-Élysées in Paris 22 days later.
The greatest bike race in the world will take in some of France’s most iconic scenery and sharpest climbs across a staggering 3,664 kilometres of racing.
But before that it will briefly pass through Rochdale, much to the delight of Council Leader Richard Farnellis.
“The Tour de France is one of the most exciting sports events in the UK this year and it is fantastic that we are part of it,” he said.
“Although only a kilometre of the race is in the borough, the stretch is recognised as one of the most fascinating sections of the route – the culmination of the longest continuous hill climb in England, up from Cragg Vale.”
The second stage from York to Sheffield, which will be 201km in length, will use a route along a section of the B6138 and the A58 adjacent to Blackstone Edge Reservoir.
This includes a sharp bend which will slow the Tour down and maximise viewing opportunities for spectators.
Thousands are expected to line the roadsides on the day for what is the most viewed live sporting event in the world as around 12million people each year converge on the Tour’s route.
First held in 1903, the race was initially created to improve the sales of a French national newspaper.
Since then the Tour has increased in popularity but has not been without scandal – most recently Lance Armstrong admitted to winning seven consecutive Tours using banned substances.
Despite the setbacks and bad publicity the race has received in recent times, Rochdale’s Director of Economy and Environment Mark Widdup believes it’s an honour that the route is passing through the area.
“The Tour de France is the world’s biggest annual free sports event and it’s on our doorstep,” he said.
“We hope that as many people as possible really enjoy it and whilst there will be some disruption, having such a prestigious race visiting is very exciting.”
The recent success of British riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the event – both have won it in the last two years – has brought it to the UK public’s attention like never before.
And club secretary of Rochdale CTC, David Trippier is delighted that he and other cycling enthusiasts will be able to experience the big race first-hand.
“Everyone in our club is looking forward to seeing the Tour de France,” he told MM.
“The event itself is far too big for any club to contribute to, but everyone will want to see it nevertheless.
“As a cycling club we regularly use the Cragg Valley road on our return journeys to Rochdale and it is quite unbelievable that this road, along with all the others in Yorkshire, will now be famous for having been a Tour de France climb.
“I could never have imagined the Tour passing so close to Rochdale, indeed passing through a small part of it.”
The recent success of British cycling, both in the Tour and on the track, has seen a surge in the amount of people joining clubs and Mr Trippier hopes that more people than ever will be keen to join after witnessing the race pass by.
“Hopefully, after the Tour has passed by, its legacy will further increase cycling as a sport or pastime,” he added.
“In this regard Rochdale CTC and its sister cycle racing club The East Lancs Road Club are ideal clubs to join.
“These clubs will take riders from absolute beginner status through to racing with the best.”
Main image courtesy of Graham Morris via YouTube, with thanks.