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Top cyclists pedalling their way to Torbay

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

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MAJOR cycling events have been confirmed for Torbay this summer, which could attract thousands of spectators and riders.

The professional Tour Series is coming back to Torquay in May, bringing some of Britain's top riders and 25 Sky Rides — free fun family rides — are being held across the Bay from May to September.

It comes as councillors are being asked to give the go ahead for a £1.6million velodrome and 1.5km outdoor off-road circuit at Paignton's Clennon Valley, seen as a flagship for leisure and sport cycling for the south west.

Torbay Council wants to raise the resort's profile in the cycling world with the aim of securing a leg of the Tour of Britain and hosting the world championships.

The council has been given £525,000 of funding for a series of on and off-road cycle link improvements over the next five years, including a short cut at Hollicombe Park and Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust won £600,000 for an off-road circuit linking Occombe Farm, Cockington and Compton Castle.

There are regional standard BMX tracks at Parkfield in Paignton and a woodland track at Scadson Woods.

Torbay Council has a busy Bikeability programme teaching primary school children — and now adults — how to ride safely.

Last year the Tour Series attracted thousands of spectators to the seafront despite the poor weather. This year the route has been changed slightly for the leg on Tuesday, May 28, after the spring Bank Holiday Monday.

Torbay's Mayor, Gordon Oliver, said: "The event has grown significantly and promises to be even more exciting this year. There will be an event village on Torre Abbey Meadows with many different activities and displays throughout the day while the community races take place.

"The excitement will carry on through to the evening when we will see the professional riders take to the circuit to give a spectacular show.

"We are keen to attract events large and small which have a positive direct economic impact on local businesses."

British Cycling Sky Ride Local rides are fun, free community bike rides which offer a great way of getting out and exploring a local area.

A decision on the velodrome had been postponed until the council meeting at the Riviera International Conference centre in Torquay tonight.

Torbay Council is being asked to match the £780,000 funding from British Cycling which wants the Bay to host the first centre of its kind in the south west.

Labour councillor Darren Cowell, a Torbay Sports Council member who had called for the deferment, said: "The process for the wider Clennon Valley project has slipped a little because meetings were delayed by the earlier bad weather, which is understandable.

"The total business case of the velodrome, together with the potential activities at Clennon Valley, would mean it would appear to be much more viable than if it stands on its own. The best way of operating it still needs to be explored, whether the council, a club or an outside operator.

"This gave us breathing space and a chance for all opportunities to be explored. British Cycling was relaxed about the deferment and saw the sense of it."

Cllr Cowell said there was the possibility of attracting further grant funding if another major regional sports facility was included in the Clennon Valley complex.

"This could help pay for the project and make it more viable. It wouldn't be swimming, as Plymouth is a regional centre, it could be something like gymnastics or table tennis. It would need to be an iconic sports facility. It's all part of the Olympic legacy and we should tap into that," he said.

"I think everybody supports the principle of the velodrome, but I think there were concerns about the business case. It also gave the Paignton Neighbourhood Plan Forum the opportunity to discuss it."

Cllr Robert Excell, sports champion for the council, said he would like to see as many people as possible at the meeting tomorrow to support the velodrome.

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