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Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Thursday, 9 September 2010 16:47 UK
Tour of Britain comes to Rochdale
Cyclists racing (c) Michelle Rudd
Cyclists will leave Rochdale and finish in London eight days later.

Some of the world's best cyclists are gathering in Rochdale for the premier event in the UK cycling calendar.

The 2010 Tour of Britain is a gruelling 760-mile race around England and Wales and will feature some of Britain's former Olympic champions.

This year, the eight-day race sets off from Rochdale and will begin once the town hall clock chimes at 10.30am.

Rochdale is marking the occasion with a special tour festival including a bicycle ballet.

STAGE 1: ROCHDALE TO BLACKPOOL
From the Town Hall, the cyclists will make their way up Drake St, turning onto Manchester Road and St Mary's Gate before turning left up Spotland Road.

The true start of the race is at the junction of Ings Lane and Edenfield Rd, where the strongest riders will break away and start their challenge for the yellow jersey.

At Norden, the first sprint of the 2010 race will take place with cyclists competing to wear the coveted red, white and blue sprint jersey.

The cyclists will continue along Edenfield Rd heading to Rawtenstall and Waterfoot before skirting Burnley and Padiham on the way north to Blackpool.

The Tour of Britain may not have the pedigree of the Tour de France but organisers say interest in the sport has grown hugely since Team GB's gold medal success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Two years ago, the Tour attracted over a million spectators to the roadside in 2008, and thousands more on television and via the internet.

Now thousands of people are expected at the start of the race in Rochdale town centre on Saturday 11 September.

The town hall will even play a key role, getting the riders under way at the stroke of 10.30am when its bells chime the half hour.

At that moment, 96 cyclists will set off from Rochdale to Blackpool on the first stage of a 1,228 km (763 mile) course which has been declared the toughest in seven years.

Competing will be Team Sky, Britain's newly-formed professional team which includes Olympic gold medallists Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas.

'Brilliant'

Rochdale council leader Irene Davidson said it was a proud day for Rochdale and urged residents to cheer the cyclists on their way.

Bicycle ballet (c) Ray Gibson
Watch 'the dance of the bicycle' at the Tour Festival

"Having the start of the Tour is brilliant because it gives people the chance to meet the cycling stars, get their autographs and enjoy everything that's on offer before the racers speed out of the town centre.

"We're hoping thousands of people from Rochdale and beyond descend on the town for the event and these activities will make sure that there's lots for everyone to enjoy both before and after the competitors have left."

The Tour of Britain is the UK's biggest free to watch sporting event and Rochdale's Tour Festival gets underway at 8am on the day.

The day's events include performances by the Bicycle Ballet Company; a vintage bike display from the Northern Counties Veteran and Classic Cycle Club and a folding bike competition.




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