Hundreds lined the streets of Kettering Market Place this afternoon to welcome some of the world’s best cyclists over the finish line of the Aviva Women’s Tour third stage.
The crowds roared and banged on the barriers as the overall stage winner, Luxembourg’s Christine Majerus, was first over the line, closely followed by Italy’s Barbara Guarisch and Britain’s Lucy Garner. Northamptonshire’s own Hannah Barnes narrowly missed third position, coming in fourth behind Miss Garner who also won both Best of British and Best Young Rider jerseys for the day.
Following the race, 22-year-old Miss Barnes, of Burton Latimer, said: “It was a really hard finish but it has been a good day.
“Time bonuses were important today so it would have been better to come in third, but there is still everything to play for and I’m going to keep giving it 100 per cent.
“I’ve been racing Lucy since I was 10 and it was nice to have her there.
“It was really nice to be able to see my parents briefly and the sun came out at the end for us as well.”
Speaking on her way to the fourth stage of the race in Boreham Wood tomorrow, she said: “We will probably watch some of the video highlights of the day tonight and have a bit of a relax. Today went as well as we could have hoped for.”
The finish line in Kettering was already crowded more than an hour before the cyclists arrived, with spectators coming from as far as Newcastle especially for the event.
Adam Ryder and Nicola Braye, of Nuneaton, took a day off work especially for the event. They said: “There is a great atmosphere here today and you can tell it’s going to be electric when they all cross the finish line. The first two stages have been great, but it was such a shame to see Lizzie Armitstead’s crash after winning the first one.”
Keen cyclists Adrian Mchale, of Peterborough, Adrian Woodfield, of Rushden, and Richard Chaplin, of Raunds, also started cycling from Oundle after the tour began this morning and cut across the county to watch the finish.
They said: “It’s a brilliant turn out and fantastic to see women in cycling being promoted properly - the only thing is some serious sponsorship to give them the chance to become even more professional.
“We’ve covered most of their Northamptonshire route before and they are in for a tough ride today.”
Presenting the jerseys and flowers on the podium after the race were Heather Smith, Northamptonshire County Council deputy leader and June Derbyshire, mayor of Kettering.
Councillor Smith said: “We were all delighted with the success of last year’s event and I didn’t think this year could be any better – but it was. The atmosphere in the towns and villages along the route was fantastic and I was overwhelmed to see so many people come out to cheer on the cyclists.
“I’d like to congratulate the winner of the Northamptonshire stage, Christine Majerus, on an incredible race and I want to say a huge thank you to the many stewards and volunteers who made the day such a success.
“We are very proud to have brought the Women’s Tour to Northamptonshire for the second year running. It had a tremendous impact by inspiring people to get active and get cycling and I hope the success of this year’s event continues to encourage people to get on their bikes!”