Busy streets normally reserved for traffic and pedestrians were converted into an enclosed race track to play host to the Pearl Izumi Tour Series BAE Systems Barrow Stage on Friday.
Following the success of the series visiting Furness last year, there was another strong crowd. Event organisers have estimated that up to 14,000 people witnessed the action on a bright but cold day in the Barrow sunshine.
In the climax to the occasion, Team Wiggins rider Chris Lawless outsprinted veteran Will Bjergfelt down Duke Street for his team’s maiden triumph in the Tour Series.
But the event started hours earlier, as organisers SweetSpot handed the track over to the community – ensuring young riders, keen amateurs and even runners had chance to compete on the same stage as the pros and taste the unique atmosphere.
The event was brought back to Barrow by Cumbria County Council.
Mark Brierley, the authority’s cycling officer, said: “I’m really happy that so many people have come to see it again. You do wonder whether it would still have the same novelty factor. But I think today has shown this can certainly become an established event in Barrow.
“But more important than just pure numbers, it’s the atmosphere we’ve been able to create here, and Barrow has created another fantastic atmosphere again.”
SweetSpot race director Mick Bennett was open to the idea of another return to Barrow, and Mr Brierley said it was possible, depending on the money available.
He said: “The will is there, it’s whether the finance is. It’s purely down to funding and talking again with the partners.
“I would like to think we can do it again. It’s a product we can hone a little bit. We have changed and improved from last year, and I think we can probably change a few more things to make it even better.”
Councillor Mel Worth, Cumbria County Council chairman, said: “Even though it’s cold, it’s dry, and if you look down Duke Street, it’s chock a block with supporters all the way down the road.
“I started the Sky Ride (a non-competitive family ride) and there are three of those happening in the Lake District and Cumbria this summer. They are a fantastic way of encouraging people, especially younger people, to get into cycling and it’s been a pleasure to see so many people involved today, especially with children with disabilities being given the opportunity to take part as well.”
Clark Ellwood, of Grizebeck, took centre stage as he waved a flag bearing his own design to start the main event.
The eight-year-old Burlington CE Primary School pupil earned the honour after winning a competition organised by the Evening Mail and the Furness Building Society.
He was given trackside VIP treatment on the evening, along with his mum Helen and brother Angus, seven.
Mum Helen said: “It’s been a lovely evening. His brother has enjoyed it too – look at him perched on the barrier watching, if he gets any nearer he will be on the track!
“Clark has already said he is going to put his flag up in his bedroom when he gets home. We’re going to McDonald’s now – that’s where they want to go next!”
Other partners involved in staging the event included BAE Systems, Barrow Borough Council and emergency services, including the police, who reported a trouble-free, good-natured event.
Councillor John Murphy, who represents Barrow on the borough and county councils, said: “Once again, it’s great to see the people of Barrow coming out to enjoy a special event that once again puts Barrow at the forefront. It really helps to promote the town.”
John Hudson, managing director for the UK maritime sector at BAE Systems, said: “Once again Barrow turned out in force for a fantastic event. BAE Systems was really pleased to support the race again and we also had a great turnout for our jobs fair.”
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