UPDATE: Norfolk and Suffolk leg of Tour of Britain cycle race launched

A professional cyclist, council leaders and sponsors gathered on the Norfolk-Suffolk border today to officially launch their Tour of Britain stage.

Officials from both county councils said that Tour of Britain fever was already building in Norfolk and Suffolk ahead of the 195km race that will take place on September 17.

Organisers are calling on local businesses to get ready for the internationally-renowned cycle race and hope that even more people will line the streets for the penultimate tour stage, which this year is on a Saturday.

An estimated 130,000 people lined the roadsides for the Norfolk stage last September, which ran from King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth, and brought more than �5m to the local economy.

This year's joint Norfolk and Suffolk stage will start from Bury St Edmunds and will cover 60 miles of scenic Suffolk roads before entering Eye, Diss, Shelfhanger, Bunwell, Wymondham, Barnham Broom, East Tuddenham, Western Longville, Alderford, Booton, Reepham, Bawdeswell, Mileham, Rougham, Gayton, and Congham, on its way to the finishing line at the Sandringham Estate.

Peterborough-based professional rider Steve Lampier, who hopes to take part in his first Tour of Britain with the Sigma Sports team, said he expected to see some top quality cyclists competing in this year's event.

'On a national scale, it is one that everyone wants to do. All of the riders in the British pro teams want to ride this and internationally, the profile has risen so much. It will be a week away from the world championships in Denmark and a lot of the teams will be using it as good preparation,' he said.

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In addition to the tour stage, charity cyclists are also being invited to ride the route on Sunday, July 24 with the registration fees going to the Prostate Cancer Charity.

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said a lot of hard work and lobbying had gone on behind the scenes to bring the Tour of Britain back to the county and the organisers were keen to return and use a different route this time around.

'Last year we were fortunate that several Olympians took part and people see it as an integral part of the international cycling calendar. I think it is brilliant that it is going through south Norfolk and it will be the biggest sporting event to go through Diss and will showcase what Norfolk has to offer and they are really fantastic places to visit,' he said.

The Norfolk part of the event has received financial support from Norfolk County Council and district and borough councils in South Norfolk, Broadland and West Norfolk as well as sponsorship from Adnams, Mott Macdonald, May Gurney and Aquaterra Energy. However, officials say they hope to get a more than 20-fold return on their investment through the financial boost for the local economy.

Fiona Roberts, Tour of Britain manager for Norfolk, added that moving the stage from a Thursday to a Saturday will help make the event more accessible to residents and market towns were being encouraged to organise farmers' markets on the day.

The highlights of the racing are also set to be broadcast on an hour- long ITV4 show on the day.

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, added: 'It is going to bring tourists from across the country into our market towns with 12 months to go before the Olympics. It will put South Norfolk on the map. It is not a magic wand by itself, but together with other initiatives it is boosting the local economy and we have to make sure everyone is ready for September 17,' he said.

To get involved in the charity tour ride, visit www.tourride.co.uk/east-anglia-pro-ride.asp