Spectators lined the streets of Hemel Hempstead today as the town hosted an historic sporting event.
Dacorum residents turned out in their hundreds to watch the sixth stage of the Tour of Britain zoom towards a spectacular finish alongside the town’s Gadebridge Park.
The band of elite cyclists had been on a whistlestop tour through the borough, hitting Berkhamsted and Potten End on their way from Bath.
Civic dignitaries including borough mayor Allan Lawson, council leader Andrew Williams and town MP Mike Penning were also lining the route for the finish, which was broadcast live on ITV4 and attracted national media coverage.
Some schools even let their pupils out early to catch history being made in the area, as Dacorum has never before hosted such a large-scale sporting event.
Whizzing towards winning position for this stage – one of the longest and toughest of the week-long Tour – was Austrian Matthias Brandle, who completed the feat of two consecutive stage wins in a row.
Speaking after the race, he told Hemel Today: “I really enjoyed the support here. The road was just full of people.
“When we came 500m towards the end, they opened the road for us and it was an amazing feeling.
“It really motivates you – you don’t just stop and go easy, you have to just keep pushing.
“So many people are here to watch you, you just go harder.”
It was also an incredible result for Briton Alex Dowsett who, despite coming second in today’s stage, wears the yellow jersey as race leader.
He described today’s cycle into Hemel Hempstead as ‘one of the hardest days I’ve ever had on the bike’, but also praised the huge turnout of supporters from the area.
He said: “The whole stage was amazing. I’ve never ridden in a race where so many people were shouting my name at the side of the road, even if it was a little frustrating hearing some people shout, ‘Go Wiggo!’
“But it was incredible, I have never known anything like it.
“The further we go in this Tour of Britain the more and more people that are coming out.
“Racing in England – as I race mostly on the continent and abroad – the crowds here are some of, if not the biggest, I have ever seen.”
See above for Natalee Hazelwood’s video report of today’s event, and keep an eye on the website and next week’s Gazette for further coverage and extended video highlights.