South West Tour of Britain crowds were record- DCC

MASSIVE crowds in Devon and Somerset who turned out to watch The Tour of Britain last week were the biggest the cycle race has ever seen.

MASSIVE crowds in Devon and Somerset who turned out to watch The Tour of Britain last week were the biggest the cycle race has ever seen.

According to The Tour organisers, Stages Six and Seven in the South West attracted record numbers of spectators. Early estimates from the Police are that there were more than 14,000 people in Bideford and around 3,000 in Hatherleigh - not to mention tens of thousands more along the route in Devon and Somerset.

The two South West stages, hosted by Somerset and Devon County Councils, contained some of the most challenging and exciting racing, with six of the most gruelling King of the Mountain hill climbs of the entire competition.

Spectators in Bideford were treated to a fourth stage win by Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Columbia-HTC, who eventually won the overall Yellow Jersey. And Yeovil saw the first British stage winner since 2007 as 21 year old Ben Swift of Team Katusha took his first professional victory.

The Tour are very keen for that level of support in the south west to grow again next year.

Mick Bennett, Technical Director of The Tour of Britain, said: "The crowds in Barnstaple were absolutely unbelievable and I had several journalists who all said they are the biggest crowds they have ever seen on The Tour of Britain. And that's what happens, I think, when you get joint collaboration with two counties. Devon and Somerset combined and the results are record crowds - and that's what we want."

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Graham Jones, Route Director of The Tour of Britain, said: "The race has taken a massive step forward again this year but we're not going to rest on our laurels, we've got to take it further forward and we're already starting to think about next year. We've had some great finishes, some great routes and some great crowds."

Over two days, the riders from some of the world's best professional cycling teams covered 346km across Devon and Somerset. The Tour stage in the South West in 2008 attracted an estimated 107,000 spectators, generating �1.859 million for local businesses in Devon and Somerset, and the expectation is that the two stages this year will far exceed those figures.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: "What an amazing couple of days that The Tour has provided in our two counties. I think everyone will admit that it was the crowds that made it special, and that level of enthusiasm shows why we want Devon to be known as a cycling destination. Thousands of people, including masses of schoolchildren really showed their support for all of the cyclists and I'd like to thank everyone who turned out. I met people from all across Devon and other parts of the country who visited specifically to see The Tour. That has to be good for our local economy, and we will hope for more of the same next year."

Councillor David Huxtable, Somerset County Council's Cabinet Member for Resources, said: "The crowds generated by the two South West Tour of Britain stages has provided a real shot in the arm for our local businesses, which is especially welcome during these difficult economic times. Our continued priority is to assist Somerset's economy, attract more visitors to our county and to get more people involved in cycling. The Tour of Britain has acted as the perfect showcase for these priorities.