Warwickshire’s drive to bring the top two UK cycling events to the county could lead to it becoming a major destination for pedalling enthusiasts.
The county hosted the OVO Energy Women’s Tour in June, and in September a key stage of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain will start and finish in the county for the third year in succession.
Last year, record numbers turned out to watch both stages attracting some of the largest kerbside crowds across both events.
Now business and tourism chiefs are keen for Coventry and Warwickshire companies to use the events to promote the area.
Jonathan Browning, chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership which is tasked with growing the local economy, is a former chair of British Cycling and believes attracting the two events has really raised the profile of the area as a cycling destination.
“There is no doubt that hosting the OVO Energy events over the last few years has not only got local people out on to the streets to watch, but has also attracted people into the county and highlighted our attributes to a national and international audience,” he said.
“That would have been good as a one-off, but Warwickshire’s decision to attract the events back over several years gives the area a real opportunity to build some long-term gain.
“We have some great countryside in Warwickshire with enough variety to make it really interesting for cyclist of all levels and when cyclists visit an area for a couple of days, they spend money on food, drink and accommodation.
“I think there is an opportunity off the back of the two major events this year for hospitality businesses to target cycling business.”
Figures compiled at last year’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour showed that more 100,000 spectators lined local streets to see some of the world’s top female cyclists.
Almost two thirds of that figure – approximately 63,000 people – was made up of fans coming to Warwickshire to see the race – with an estimated 2,000 travelling from overseas.
The tour also provided a boost to the local economy, with 42 per cent – around £860,000 - of the tour’s £2 million net spend coming in Atherstone, where the race officially started, or in Royal Leamington Spa, the finishing point of the stage.
This year’s Warwickshire stage on September 13 is 185k long. The start is in Warwick and the world’s top riders will pass through the University of Warwick, Kenilworth, Meriden – home to the National Cyclists’ Memorial – Atherstone, Bedworth and Wellesbourne.
Riders will climb Sun Rising Hill near Edge Hill before beginning the first of two full loops of a clockwise 12-kilometre finishing circuit around Burton Dassett and Farnborough, giving fans there three chances to see the action.
ITV4 will once again screen live free-to-air coverage flag-to-flag of each stage in the UK, along with a nightly highlights programme of the best of the action.
Helen Peters, Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s England, which promotes tourism in South Warwickshire and the surrounding areas, said Warwickshire’s long-term approach to the events had attracted national attention.
She said: “The interest last year was considerable and Warwickshire’s attributes as a cycling destination were highlighted by the national press and in the leading road cycling magazine.
“We would certainly encourage businesses to target cycle groups. Often it is as simple as offering or promoting facilities such as safe storage for bikes and suggesting routes and café stops.”