By IAN CLARKE
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Cheering crowds welcomed the Tour of Britain competitors as they roared through the towns and villages of Mid Norfolk on Saturday afternoon.
The biggest turn out in the heart of the county was in Reepham where hundreds of flag waving fans used every vantage point to grab a glimpse of some of the world’s top cyclists.
Some watched from first floor windows, other sat on shop roofs, a large number crowded in to the church yard and the people several deep in places packed in to the Market Place and roads through the town.
Several shops had put up flags and posters and an excited atmosphere built up as the crowds waited for the cyclists.
A heavy shower fell on the town as the early arrivals assembled but it soon cleared and Reepham was bathed in sunshine at the key moments.
Cheers greeted every police motorcyclist and support vehicle and the drivers responded with waves and tunes from their sirens.
The volume of the ovation rose considerably as the leading pack of six riders went through Reepham and peaked again a few minutes later as the chasing pack followed through.
A group of cyclists from CC Breckland set up a display and fancy dress and decorated bike competition outside the Post Office which is run by George Johnson, 74, who is a member and rides about 100 miles a week.
“It is absolutely fantastic for them to come here,” said Mr Johnson, who praised Norfolk County Council and Broadland District Council for their support of the tour.
Mr Johnson has seen top cyclists in many races, including the Tour De France but said it was very special for them to pass his shop.
Among the attractions in the Market Place was former Norwich City footballer Jeremy Goss promoting a static bike to raise money for the Norwich and Norfolk Association for the Blind.
He cycled nearly 1300 miles over 11 days in his Back to Bayern challenge and was in awe of the competitors.
“It is great to see the professionals at the top. What I did was just a warm up for them.”
Bill Quinney. of Quinney chartered accountants in Reepham Market Place, said: “There is a real buzz in the community and it is good for the town.”
Philip Morter, who runs Bennetts in Reepham, said: “It is really exciting and very good for the town as it brings lots of people in.”
People also turned out in force in villages such as Bawdeswell, Mileham, North Elmham and Brisley before the tour moved in to West Norfolk for the final section of stage seven.
Earlier, other villages put on special events to coincide with the tour travelling through.
The Bell Inn at Barnham Broom held a family fun day and Thai and Chinese BBQ, while the Parson Woodforde at Weston Longville hosted a farmers’ market in the garden to celebrate local produce and suppliers.