Tour of Britain could return to Norfolk “again and again” after huge crowds at the weekend

The Tour of Britain could become an annual visitor to Norfolk after huge crowds lined the county's streets at the weekend to show their support for the cycle race for a second year.

The internationally-renowned cycle race arrived in the county for the first time last year and around 130,000 people lined Norfolk's streets to watch the race.

But Tour organisers have told the EDP this year's East Anglian stage saw even bigger crowds and have hinted it could become a permanent fixture.

Alastair Grant, the tour's commercial director, said: 'Everything was absolutely fantastic from the start in Bury St Edmunds to the finish in Sandringham - a truly iconic British location.

'Last year we were blown away with the size of the crowds across Norfolk but the crowds were much bigger along the route this year.

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'The size of the crowds were on the same scale to those usually seen during the Tour De France and have been the biggest we've seen this year.

'The people of Norfolk and Suffolk have really taken the Tour of Britain to their hearts and we will be looking to bring it back here again and again for sure.'

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James Carswell, cabinet member for cultural services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The boost the Tour of Britain brings to the local economy is absolutely huge and yet again thousands of people have turned out across Norfolk to show their support.

'We really want to see the Tour of Britain come back here year after year because it is clear Norfolk is really encouraged by it and we will be working hard to make sure it does.'

The East Anglian stage began in Bury St Edmunds just after 10am and saw competitors race through the Suffolk countryside before crossing the county boundary to race through many of Norfolk's towns and villages.

The elite cyclists received a warm welcome to Norfolk when hundreds of people applauded as the leading pack of athletes flew through Diss at 12.20pm.

Spectators then braved the showery weather to cheer on the professional cyclists as poured into the historic market town of Wymondham before they roared through the towns and villages of Mid Norfolk.

One of the biggest crowds 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.

People also turned out in force in villages such as Bawdeswell, Mileham, North Elmham and Brisley.

An electric atmosphere then energised the elite cyclists as they sprinted to the finish line at the picturesque Sandringham Estate just after 3pm.

The large crowd burst into life when Lithuanian Gediminas Bagdonas, British cyclist Ian Wilkinson and Team Europcar's Mathieu Claude pushed for victory at the royal estate.

At 200km, the East Anglian stage was the longest Tour of Britain stage since 2004 and the relief was evident on the face of Bagdonas when he crossed the line just after four hours and 33 minutes.

After narrowly missing out on victory, Ian Wilkinson, of Endura Racing, also told the EDP: 'It certainly wasn't flat out there, up and down all the time like a Belgian stage.

'There were awesome crowds today, in a few of the villages all I could smell was barbeques. Plenty of folks through the towns, which was fabulous.'

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