Marc de Maar wins Stoke-on-Trent stage of Tour of Britain as thousands turn out at Hanley finish line
THOUSANDS gathered in Hanley to witness the end of the fifth stage of The Tour of Britain today.
Crowds packed along the finish line on Old Hall Street to see Dutch rider Marc de Maar take first place after a gruelling 150km trek.
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The route, which had earlier left Trentham Gardens at 10.30am, had seen the riders pass through Stone, Stafford, Cannock, Rugeley, Rocester, and Uttoxeter, before heading up into the Staffordshire Moorlands and back towards Stoke-on-Trent, where they arrived at around 2pm.
It was a disappointing day for the 2011 world road race champion and Team Sky rider Mark Cavendish, who finished more than three minutes back in the main group, which also included Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins.
Cavendish, who started the day wearing the leader’s gold jersey, had already hinted at a difficult day ahead and so it proved, as Australian rider Leigh Howard, who finished in the leading group just 15 second behind Maar, took over as overall leader of the tour.
But the loss of Cavendish’s leader’s jersey did not dampen the spirits of those who turned out.
Among those watching the race from the roadside were Jo Perry and Sue Jones, both members of Newcastle based cycling club Lyme Racing.
Sue, 59, who lives in Porthill and serves as the membership and social secretary of the club, said it was brilliant to see the race in Stoke-on-Trent.
“We’ve been following it right from the beginning,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic atmosphere.
“25 youngsters from our club led the riders out at the start of the stage at Trentham Gardens and presented them with presents from the council.
“Since the Olympics our cycling club has had a big influx of youngsters.”
Jo was equally enthusiastic about the day, despite recent criticisms about the cost of the event to Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
“It’s definitely worthwhile,” she said.
“Look how many people are here.
“We’ve really embraced the sport.”
Some of the fans had even travelled in from as far as Burton-upon-Trent.
One such fan was Doug Lewis, who admitted he was somewhat new to the sport.
“I have only been cycling for a few months,” he said.
“I started last October but this year has been amazing.
“It’s got to be good for the area, when you see so many people have turned out.”
After the race fans who gathered outside Hanley bus station were treated to an appearance form Wiggins and Cavendish, who met fans outside the Team Sky bus to sign autographs.
Wiggins is even believed to have signed a telephone box outside the WRVS centre, much to the delight of onlookers.
After the race a podium presentation also took place, which in addition to featuring the stage winner Marc de Maar and gold jersey wearer Leigh Howard, also saw British rider Kristian House awarded for his times in the hill climb stages at Cannock Chase, Oakamoor Moorside and Gun Hill and fellow Brit Peter Williams awarded for his times in the sprint stages at Stone, Uttoxeter and Rocester.