AN estimated five-figure crowd turned out for one of Barrow’s most memorable ever sporting occasions yesterday (Thursday).
Event organisers say around 10,000 people attended the Pearl Izumi Tour Series BAE Systems Barrow round - where the town centre was transformed into a 1.1km cycling circuit for the day.
Community races involving disabled children, local schools and amateur racers both young and old took place throughout the afternoon before the main event.
The riders in the main race averaged nearly 43kph over the 80-minute challenge.
The individual winner on the night was Graham Briggs of the Rapha Condor JLT team, who received a trophy made of Honister slate from race sponsors Cumbria County Council and took his team into pole position as Series leaders.
Second-placed rider Tom Scully’s team Madison Genesis were the team winners on the night, with all five riders awarded model Astute-class submarines from co-sponsors BAE Systems.
Race winner Briggs said: “It was a great night and fantastic to see so many people coming out to support us. With the success of previous Tour of Britain events, cycle racing is a big thing in Cumbria and it’s great for the sport to have this kind of backing.”
Double Olympic Gold medallist Ed Clancy was part of the Series-leading team Rapha Condor JLT.
He said it was the first time he had ever visited Barrow, but the town had really impressed him with its enthusiasm for the Tour Series.
“You never know what you’re going to get with a first-time venue, but the spectators really helped make it," he said.
"It was a great circuit – deceptively hard, with a lot of stop/start, so you were always having to either hit the gas or the brakes.
"The support races earlier in the day got everyone in the mood and were a good way of using the circuit. Hopefully Barrow will want us back again in the future, it’s a really nice place.”
Partners involved in staging the event with the Tour Series organisers SweetSpot included event sponsor Cumbria County Council, co-sponsor BAE Systems, Barrow Borough Council and emergency services including the police, who reported a trouble-free, good-natured event.
Councillor Geoff Cook, Chairman of Cumbria County Council, was the official race starter alongside 12-year-old Walney resident Sydney Atkinson.
"It was a great evening and fantastic to see the organisers of the Tour of Britain back in Cumbria with this unique Tour Series event, which we’ve never experienced before," said Coun Cook.
"Barrow has helped to cement Cumbria’s reputation as a great place for professional cycling, with enthusiastic crowds, good organisation and brilliant landscapes to hold the events. We’ll have done ourselves a lot of favours with the organisers of the Tour of Britain as they consider future venues for future years.”
Prior to the race, lead local sponsor BAE Systems held a recruitment fair in the town centre on the day to highlight major recruitment opportunities coming up at the company.
It was a major success, with around 1,200 people coming along to find out more about working there.
Simon Wood, Finance Director at BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines, said: "The whole day, from the recruitment fair to the races, was amazing from a BAE Systems perspective. It has really helped put Barrow on the map.
"The town was transformed and it was brilliant to be part of the whole event. The archive image of thousands of people leaving the shipyards on their bikes is an icon for the town, but we’ve never seen anything like the spectacle of professional racers hurtling along our streets at incredible speeds. We’d love to see similar events coming back to Barrow in the future.”
Highlights will be shown on ITV4 at 8pm tonight (Friday) with a repeat at 8am tomorrow (Saturday) morning.