By Councillor Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Public Protection and Communities.
It was an honour to host the sixth and final stage of the AJ Bell Women’s Tour in Suffolk over the weekend.
The Women’s Tour has become a staple of our sporting calendar here in Suffolk. It’s the sixth time the race has come to Suffolk and it was particularly exciting this year to host the final stage of the race, crowning both the winner of the stage and the overall race.
As a joint Stage Partner with East Suffolk Council, Suffolk County Council plays a lead role in bringing the Women’s Tour to Suffolk. Its significant investment brings an economic and tourism boost to Suffolk, as well as physical activity benefits for our residents.
The council works alongside our location partners; West Suffolk Council, Babergh and Mid Suffolk Council and Felixstowe Town Council, and supporting partners; Palmer Group and Vertas Group to support the events locally and provide a fantastic experience for our residents and tourists visiting the county.
It’s been a long journey to get here, with the stage first announced back in January 2020 aboard the Cosco Shipping Star, one of the world’s largest container ships, in the Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s biggest and busiest container port.
After what transpired as a very challenging time for so many, it really was a welcome celebration to see the race return to our county on Saturday. For many communities along the route it was their first opportunity to get together after the last 18 months and it was a delight to see smiling faces lining the streets, ready to watch some of the world’s best cyclists race through towns and villages across Suffolk.
The riders left Haverhill town centre at 11.00am on Saturday, before embarking on a route through towns such as Sudbury, Stowmarket, Needham Market and Woodbridge, including a thrilling race down the runway of Wattisham Flying Station!
It was an exciting day of cycling and I am proud that our communities and businesses along the route were out in force to show their support. Race organisers too have praised the enthusiasm of crowds along the route from Haverhill to Felixstowe. The Women’s Tour offers residents a unique chance to watch the world’s best riders and teams compete on their doorsteps. The international coverage which the race attracts also gives the perfect opportunity to showcase all our fantastic county has to offer.
Saturday’s 155km stage culminated in a sprint finish along Felixstowe seafront, which saw team Valcar’s Elisa Balsamo first across the line to win the Suffolk Stage to rapturous applause from the crowds. Congratulations to Elisa, the overall race winner Team SD Worx rider Demi Vollering, and to all the riders who took part.
Ahead of the Women’s Tour riders, came the amazing group of firefighters from Suffolk Fire and Rescue and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, who were part of the Longest Ride 2021 team. They cycled from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in just 10 days, raising over £55k for the Fire Fighters Charity, which supports the health and wellbeing of all serving and retired members of the fire service community, as well as their spouses, partners and dependants. A huge well done to all the firefighters who took part in the gruelling challenge, cycling the length of the UK and raising awareness of the mental health challenges they and their colleagues face every day.
The Women’s Tour always draws huge crowds to the county. In 2019, Suffolk’s race stage attracted an estimated 44,000 spectators and modelling from organisers suggests it could have contributed £1.1 million to the county’s economy.
Since 2014, The Women’s Tour has covered more than 560 kilometres of racing in Suffolk, with the county hosting the opening stage of the race in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019, as well as the final stage of the first edition in 2014.
I hope the race inspires people to get on their bikes, whether discovering our beautiful county or making small changes in our daily routine such as cycling to work or going to see a friend. Incorporating small changes into our lives such as substituting a car journey for walking or cycling can help us feel healthier and happier, whilst supporting the environment and reducing congestion on our roads.
(All images – credit SWpix)
AJ Bell Women’s Tour | 2021 stage six highlights | Haverhill to Felixstowe
If you watched stage 6, please help the race organisers by completing a short survey