Daventry was transformed on a sunny and blustery Wednesday morning as the Women’s Tour got under way, watched by a large, enthusiastic crowd of all ages who had come out to catch a glimpse of the riders taking part in the international event.
Cardboard bicycles could be seen in window displays up and down High Street and around the town as Daventry got in the mood for the one-off event.
The race organisers did a brilliant job in helping with the town’s cycle-themed makeover, with banners and bunting adorning the roadside and hanging over High Street.
After the previous day’s torrential rainfall, the sun’s appearance was a welcome sight for spectators.
With the bunting blowing in the strong winds, each team and its riders, which included world and Olympic champions, was invited on to the stage in Church Walk and presented to the crowd.
A little further down High Street, between the Conservative Club and down towards Tavern Lane, hundreds of pupils from the Grange School, accompanied by teachers and parents, waited anxiously for the race to begin.
With flags and clappers in hand they were by far and away the loudest spectators.
Pauline Banks, a teacher at The Grange School, who brought all the Year 3 through to Year 6 children along to Daventry, said: “We really like to support community events and get the chidren involved.”
As the 11am start neared, the anticipation was palpable.
Staff from the banks and shops along High Street took a short break from work to spill out onto the pavement, as the race got underway amid a chorus of cheers and clapping.
Lynne Guest, from Daventry, said: “I think it’s fantastic for the town.
“I would definitely like to see the Women’s Tour back again next year, and perhaps even the men’s race.”
The women riders were not the only people in Daventry dressed in lycra at the Grand Depart as cycling enthusiasts donned their gear, saddled up, and joined the hundreds of others on the High Street.
One gentleman, Jon Wood, from Coventry, decided to combine his morning bike ride with the start of the Women’s Tour, cycling into Daventry to watch the start of the race.
Mr Wood said: “The more women cycling events there are in the UK the better.”
Also making an appearance at the event, among others, were Chris Heaton-Harris, the recently elected Mayor Lynne Taylor, the new chairman of Daventry District Council Cllr David James, and the district council leader Chris Millar.
Mr Millar was pleased that Daventry was able to capably host an international event with success and did not rule out the possibility of the Women’s Tour returning to the town again next year, which would make it a fifth consecutive appearance in Northamptonshire for the race.
Alan Hills, Daventry District Council’s community, culture and leisure portfolio holder said after the riders had completed their circuit in the neutralised zone: “I thought it was brilliant.
“Daventry has really come alive and there has been an excellent turnout.”
But hosting the Grand Depart was not just about putting the town on the map, there are also long-term goals in mind.
Mr Hills said: “We wanted to showcase Daventry but we also wanted to encourage women and children to take up sport.
“Tuesday’s Fit Fest event on the High Street was a success with 150 people showing up in spite of the bad weather.”
Shortly after 11.30 the town slowly went back to normal, as young and old returned to their daily routines.
There may have been an extra spring in their step too because, after all, Daventry and its people can be proud at having been, albeit briefly, the centre of attention of an international sporting event.
You can see more pictures from the Grand Depart here