The first stage of the Women’s Tour de Yorkshire has gotten underway in Barnsley this morning.
As with the first stage of the men’s race in Doncaster yesterday, crowds filled the town hall square to see the women one enthusiast described as “cycling royalty”.
The headline act for the day is Lizzie Deignan, riding for Team Trek-Segafredo in her first race back on the road after the birth of her first child.
Big British hope Lizzy Banks also takes to the Yorkshire roads for the first time as a pro, although having competed in the Tour twice before.
The race got underway to a chorus of cheers, a crowd undaunted by the wet and wild weather conditions that have taken over Barnsley today.
One couple, who are self-proclaimed cycling addicts, got up at 6am this morning and took the day off work to come down and watch the start of the race. They said it is a huge event for the town.
“It’s a great event for the town, it brings in lots of publicity,” said one observer.
“There’s always a chance as well with something like this that we might get some of the roads resurfaced, so that’s even better.”
Praise was heaped on the organisers of the Tour as well for their part in getting people interested and growing the event.
“The people who organise the Tour always pull off such a great job with it every year,” a spectator told us.
“The crowds do come out whatever the weather, it’s brilliant.”
The effect of having the Tour de Yorkshire every year has had a tangible effect on the region, with the most recent figures showing that the tourism industry in Yorkshire has risen to £9bn, and part of that is certainly down to interest in the race.
What is also important, according to cycling fans, is the amount that events like this do for women’s cycling, which is starting to gain more recognition and coverage on a yearly basis.
“Having the Tour over two days for the women [for the first time] is just a recognition of how important women are in cycling. It’s showing some parity and that these women are every bit as good as the men and can attract the crowds in the same way.”
This point was emphasised by Lizzie Deignan as she was presented to the crowd before the start of the race this morning.
“Women’s cycling is a growing sport in the UK and the fan base is showing the fact that we have the right to be fighting for equality with the men,” she said, to a rapturous reception.
The first stage of the women’s race will finish in Bedale this afternoon, with their second stage kicking off in Bridlington tomorrow.