Crowds line Essex streets to cheer on female cyclists as Women's Tour returns

Crowds have been lining the streets of Essex to cheer on some of the world's leading female cyclists for the penultimate stage of the Women's Tour.

Last year's race was cancelled because of Covid, but the event has returned again this year - although this is the first time it has been held in October.

Riders set off in the fog from Colchester’s Northern Gateway Sports Park for stage five on Friday morning, before heading into the town centre.

The stage kicked off in Colchester. Credit: ITV News Anglia

After they'd left Colchester, they then took in places like Manningtree and Holland-on-Sea, before crossing the finishing line in Clacton.

Among the interested spectators in Clacton was legendary sprinter Mark Cavendish who had front row seats of the finish alongside his little boy Casper.

It had looked like Cavendish would be cheering home Cambridge cyclist Hayley Simmonds who was leading the way for much of the race, but she was caught just before the end.

That paved the way for Dutch rider Lorena Wiebes to claim victory, just as she had in Southend on Thursday.

It means she becomes only the second rider in the history of the Women's Tour to win back-to-back stages.

The stage was also a special occasion for Sophie Wright from Horsford near Norwich who loved having the opportunity to race in front of local support.

  • Watch an extended interview with Sophie Wright

"It's really nice seeing familiar faces because often I'm away in Italy and Spain and I don't know anyone," she told ITV News Anglia.

"It's been a great race. Really well organised and great to see the crowds out. The UK has put on a good show and the weather's behaved itself!"

Stage winner Lorena Wiebes was also impressed with the East Anglian crowds.

  • Watch an extended interview with stage winner Lorena Wiebes

"It was really nice (the reception at the finishing line)," she said.

"I had to trust again in my sprint and it went all good. I was in trouble a bit with the last bend but I found my way."

East Anglia will also host the final stage of the race on Saturday when the riders take on the 155km route from Haverhill to Felixstowe.