Video: Tour of Britain could return to Norfolk and Suffolk next year
Crowds across the region got swept up in the excitement of the Tour of Britain yesterday as another glorious summer celebration brought at least 175,000 people together in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Last night, as the race winner called the hugely-successful event worth between �2m and �3m to the local economy 'incredible', organisers said they were hopeful it would return again next year.
The first leg of the national race, which travelled from Ipswich through to Norwich via Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Coltishall, Reepham, Dereham, and Easton, surpassed both previous visits to this area as between 25,000 and 30,000 people gathered at the finish line alone.
Luke Rowe, who won the race following a dramatic crash which scuppered Mark Cavendish's chances close to the end of the stage at the Norfolk Showground, said the crowds were 'incredible'.
He said: 'I've raced all over the world and I've genuinely never seen crowds like that before. You look at the faces and they are so passionate.'
Police estimated that across Norfolk and Suffolk at least 175,000 had watched the Tour come past or gather at the Costessey finish line event, which was organised by Norfolk County Council and South Norfolk District Council.
Barry Stone, cabinet member for cultural services at the county council, said: 'The day was absolutely brilliant. I don't think we could have hoped for anything better.
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'There were thousands of people just on Great Yarmouth sea front and it looked like it was well supported right along the route.
'It brings a lot of extra income to the economy and a big feel-good factor.
'There's a very strong likelihood it will come back again next year. It's all down to funding availability but, because it's worth so much – between �2m and �3m – we will make every effort to get it back for the fourth year running.'
Those hopes were boosted by the reaction from Tour of Britain organisers who seemed equally impressed.
Alastair Grant, commercial director of the race, said it had been 'absolutely overwhelming'. 'We are delighted with how it's all gone,' he said. 'The event at the showground, I'm sure, has been a fantastic experience for everyone who has come to see it.'
The county council acknowledged there had been some concerns about traffic around the Norfolk Showground, with visitors to the finish line event queuing for long periods to get home.
Spokesman Steve Reilly said, with 25,000 people and up to 12,000 cars, 'some delays could not have been avoided'. He added: 'We will, however, be reviewing the access issues that have occurred with a view to making recommendations on how access might be improved for future large events at the showground.
'Hopefully it didn't detract from what overall was a great day and a great event.'