VIDEO: Top cyclists to race again in Hanley for Tour of Britain
HUNDREDS of cyclists are preparing to descend on the Potteries after it was confirmed that two prestigious cycling events will return to Stoke-on-Trent.
The fourth stage of the national Tour of Britain, the country's biggest cycle race, will start in Hanley.
Expected to involve a minimum of 16 professional cycling teams, the September 18 race will then head west to the finish line at Llanberis, in the heart of Snowdonia.
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It is the sixth time running the city has hosted the tour, which has previously featured some of the world's top cyclists, including the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Ivan Basso and Thor Hushovd.
Before then, the Tour Series race also returns to the city centre on May 21.
Some of Britain's top cycling teams will line up alongside dozens of other racers for the 1.2 kilometre circuit, which starts at the Potteries Shopping Centre before embarking on a course which takes in most of the city centre's commercial and retail areas including Town Road, Old Hall Street, Cheapside, Piccadilly and Stafford Street.
On September 1 there will also be the chance for local cyclists to race across the planned Tour of Britain route as part of the Tour Ride – an event that last year attracted almost 1,000 riders.
Councillor Mark Meredith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for economuic development, culture and sport, said: "We're absolutely delighted to be once again hosting the races.
"They will be shown on television which will help boost the profile of the city and they are free to watch, making it a real spectacle for residents to be able to go out and enjoy the action."
However, the events have been criticised by some businesses because of the traffic congestion the event causes.
Sheila Harrison, of Gemini Clothing, in Piccadilly, Hanley, said: "It affects the shops at the bottom end of town. The top end of town may benefit more than we do from the event."
Michelle Sanger, owner of Dazed Retailing Ltd, in Brunswick Street, added: "I think that it does affect trading. Last year a few customers mentioned that it took an extra ten minutes to get to the shop.
"But you just have to take it on the chin because it is a great thing for the area. I'm sure it benefits a lot of the city, trade wise, especially cafes, and I may find a few new customers."
The Potteries leg of the Tour of Britain cost more than £820,000 over the last five years, including annual payments of between £80,000 and £175,000 to organisers.
In January The Sentinel revealed how the council was looking to drastically cut its payments for the race in a bid to save cash. The council last night confirmed that this year's race had been arranged at a reduced cost of £60,000 because the stage only starts in the city this year and finishes elsewhere.
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