Thousands see Tour of Britain set off in Capital

Mark Cavendish leads the front of the procession. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Mark Cavendish leads the front of the procession. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THOUSANDS of spectators gathered to watch one of the biggest events in the national sporting calendar zoom through the Capital.

The fourth stage of the Tour of Britain saw cycling fans flock to the starting line in Holyrood Park eager to catch a glimpse of stars such as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and defending champion Dylan van Baarle.

Cyclists take part in a procession along the Royal Mile before heading towards the start of the race at Edinburgh College, Milton Rd. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Cyclists take part in a procession along the Royal Mile before heading towards the start of the race at Edinburgh College, Milton Rd. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

As cycling fever gripped Edinburgh, spectators looked on from vantage points across the city as more than 100 racers sped past a host of landmarks.

Ahead of the race itself, large groups were camped outside Wiggins’ vehicle to await the four-time Olympic champion. Children, including more than 50 pupils from St Mary’s Primary School in Leith, stood outside his tour caravan chanting his name before he finally emerged to loud cheers.

Sporting a bright yellow cap, teacher Fiona McDonnell said: “We have been waiting with bated breath and all the children have been up early to just to catch a glimpse of him. It has been exciting to see all the track bikes, the police vehicles and the sheer number of cyclists in the main event.”

Also watching the build-up were members of Edinburgh Road Club, including a group of its younger members who were granted the rare honour of riding out ahead of the peloton.

Spectators gather on the Royal Mile to catch a glimpse of the Tour of Britain passing through the Old Town. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Spectators gather on the Royal Mile to catch a glimpse of the Tour of Britain passing through the Old Town. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Among the 20-strong group was Innes McDonald, seven, from Bruntsfield, who was delighted to take part. “This is amazing, probably a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said. “Doing the ride out will be the highlight for me – and missing school.”

His father, Sean, also a member of the group, said the city council had put out an invitation to cycling clubs across the city and they had jumped at the chance.

Martyn Edelsten, of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said it was good to see that so many people had turned out to watch the spectacle and to see their enthusiasm for cycling.

He added: “This is not like the ten-second sprint. It is a real test of endurance for the cyclists and, in many ways, it is the ultimate challenge.”

Cyclists pass the Scottish Parliment at the begging of the procession. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Cyclists pass the Scottish Parliment at the begging of the procession. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

As well as Holyrood Palace, the stage took in some of the Capital’s most famous landmarks, such as the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle, before passing through the Meadows.

From there, the route passed through East Lothian into the Borders and finished in Blyth, Northumberland.

Neil Duff, 23, had been to Tuesday’s Foo Fighters gig at Murrayfield and said he couldn’t return to Inverness without first seeing the tour.

He said: “I’m a big cycling fan and I saw it in 2012 when it was in the Borders. I enjoyed the spectacle and it is great to see Olympic champions right in front of you. You don’t get to see footballers up close like this.

“I am trying to watch as much of the tour as I can on TV but you can’t beat the experience of being part of an enthusiastic crowd and in amongst it all – and the great thing is that it’s all free.”

The event was the first visit of a national cycling tour to the city since the final stage of the PruTour in May 1999. The Tour of Britain is an eight­-stage race that tests both stamina and endurance on a 900-mile route across Britain.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “This was the first time in history that the UK’s most prestigious cycling race has traced the winding streets of the Scottish capital and it was a spectacular sight.

“As the starting point and host city of the Scottish stage and with the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse and ancient volcano Arthur’s Seat, this was the place to be to experience the thrill of the Tour of Britain.”