Thousands help celebrate opening stage of Aviva Women’s Tour across Norfolk and Suffolk

The Aviva Women's Tour cycling race.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Aviva Women's Tour cycling race.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It was an event that saw thousands of people line the region's streets to catch a glimpse of some of the world's top female cyclists.

The opening stage of this year's Aviva Women's Tour saw more than 90 athletes race through the Suffolk and Norfolk countryside yesterday.

And crowds turned out in force right along the 138km route to show their support.

Starting in Southwold at 10am, hundreds of people gathered along the pier to watch town mayor Melanie Tucker wave the riders off.

As the peloton arrived in Lowestoft, primary school children waved flags in support, while shop windows in Beccles were decorated with bikes.

There were similar scenes in Attleborough, where the town's Queen's Square was adorned with bike wheels decorated by local groups.

Meanwhile, there was something of a festival atmosphere in Norwich, with a variety of events taking place outside The Forum.

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It was in the city centre where the race came to a dramatic finish, as Alison Tetrick lost her lead in the final 100m.

The 31-year-old American had earlier managed to break away from the main peloton and take the lead with around 20km to go.

But she was caught out along the final stretch, where she was overtaken by winner Christine Majerus.

Speaking after the race, Majerus, from Luxemburg, praised crowds across Norfolk and Suffolk for their support.

She said: 'It was a huge motivation and it is one of the few races in the year where there is no two or three minutes silence, and that is great.

'Maybe I did not notice [them] in the last kilometre, but in the kilometres before I really enjoyed it.

'And when I can throw my bottles to some kids, I will do it. Thanks to everyone to coming out, it's what makes this special.'

The eight-time Luxembourg champion was awarded the Aviva Yellow Jersey by Norwich's Lord Mayor, Marion Maxwell.

People praised the event across the county, with many hoping for a return.

Among those watching was Attleborough's new town crier, Alan Austin, who was kitted out in his tricorn hat and scarlet coat.

After announcing the racers' arrival with his bell and booming voice, Mr Austin, 71, said: 'It's a great thing for the town, especially since we had the Tour of Britain come through last year as well. I used to bike everywhere myself, until I got my motorcycle.'

And Liz Dann, from Hardingham, said: 'We're here to support the women. They're just as good as the men. I think it's brilliant that they're coming through here.'

It was the first time the women's tour has entered Norfolk since it was launched three years ago.

But Alastair Grant, the tour's commercial director, said it could make a return.

He said: 'It has been fantastic today, we have had good weather despite a bad forecast and there was a huge crowd right across the route. It was an amazing atmosphere.'

'Logistically we would not be able to come every year, but we have a plan to bring the Tour of Britain back to the county and the Women's tour as well.'

Highlights of the Aviva Women's Tour will be shown each evening on ITV4 with a repeat the following morning on the same channel. They are also available on the ITV Hub catch-up service.

Don's miss our special four-page tour supplement inside

Are you launching a cycling event in Norwich? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684.