Andre Greipel wins as thousands watch Tour of Britain race in Norfolk and Suffolk

The Tour of Britain cyclists make their way past Norwich Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Tour of Britain cyclists make their way past Norwich Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Thousands of people lined the streets of Norfolk and Suffolk as the penultimate stage of the 2015 Tour of Britain raced through our region.

The day's excitement kicked off at Fakenham Racecourse as hundreds of people gathered at the renowned venue to watch the start of the seventh stage of the nationwide race.

A drizzly start proved forecasters right as the riders and their convoy of support vehicles wound their way up Bridge Street and along Norwich Street, before heading out of town towards Reepham.

Bookkeeper Lynda Woodhouse, 65, from Fakenham, turned out to see the race with her husband Barry, also 65.

'We're not cycling fans but we saw them when they arrived at Sandringham last time and got swept up in the excitement so we thought we'd come and cheer them on today,' she said.

The race started properly at Guist and the early wet weather brought punctures but little did that concern the riders as they were cheered on by mini gorilla statues depicting Sir Bradley Wiggins in Reepham and Aylsham.

The fibreglass creations - part of the Norwich GoGoGorillas charity trail two years ago - were redecorated by Aylsham artist Mik Richardson.

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Mr Richardson, 52, from Mileham Drive, who watched the race speed through the centre of Aylsham, said: 'It is lovely to be part of the Tour of Britain. It is lovely to feel part of a little community. It is incredible.'

Retired college principal Ambrose Smith, 65, from Ingworth, near Aylsham, also watched the race from the market town.

He said: 'It is a great atmosphere. Cycling is one of the sports that attracts the biggest involvement from people. Hopefully it will promote cycling.

'I have been astonished at the size of the kit on the tour cars.'

In Norwich, thousands of people had packed out the rain-drenched city centre which saw a couple of crashes, quick wheel changes and the peloton of riders be sent momentarily the wrong way.

Back on track, the professional riders sped their way out to Hethersett, Wymondham and Attleborough.

Wymondham mayor Joe Mooney said there was a real 'buzz' about the town, and at last the sun shone down on the colourful peloton and the masses of spectators.

Old Buckenham's large village green proved to be a popular place to watch and crowds lined the street right the way through Thetford from Kilverston Road out to the Bury Road.

Thousands of people continued to line the streets through Suffolk where the race came to an exciting climax at Ipswich's Waterfront. Lotto-Soudal sprinter Andre Greipel took today's stage win while Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen kept his overall race lead.

Don't miss our 16-page pull-out in Monday's paper for full race coverage and photos.

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