THE Tour of Britain procession through the town and surrounding area on Tuesday stoked the already-infectious local enthusiasm for cycling.
It proved difficult for many to avoid being swept up in, initially, the anticipation of the world’s greatest road racers sprinting down the High Street, and, on the day, the excitement generated by the thousands who flanked the town centre to catch a glimpse of current Olympic and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and sprint king Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish sprinted clear ahead of the finish line in Dumfries to claim his first stage win of the tour, a feat he repeated the following day from Carlisle to Blackpool.
Television sports broadcaster and Teri lass Jill Douglas said the sprints such as that over Hawick’s main thoroughfare and climbs like those in the Borthwick Valley offered perfect preparation to competitors readying themselves for next week’s UCI World Championship in Holland.
“Cycling at the minute is at an all-time high,” she told the Hawick News. “It has come to the Borders before and has always been well-supported. There has always been an enthusiasm for cycling in Hawick, and I think it’s to do with the countryside, which lends itself well to the sport. Hawick is on the map as far as cycling is concerned, and there is a real affection for the sport, as well as local clubs.
“It’s more mainstream now and there are more people becoming involved after hearing about Wiggins and Cav, and even Chris Hoy on the track. I’m delighted the tour is back in the Borders this year to inspire the kids on the roadside. The tour is attracting a stellar cast of cyclists now and is great preparation for these guys for the World Championship.”
Jill explained that she had spoken to riders prior to the Tour and advised them to catch a proper glimpse of her hometown. “During the races, a lot of the time these guys have their heads down and are not that aware of where they’re going through,” she said. “I told them to have a look around Hawick as they passed through.”
Ms Douglas told of how the race signalled a special moment for her family. She said: “My nephew, Jack Chelley, had to make a presentation at Jedburgh on the night before the race and, on Tuesday, he and his brother and his mum, and the whole of Hobkirk PS – my old school – went to Denholm and all had banners.
Most spectators present agreed that the turnout of support was impressive and thrill of the occasion a great experience.
Borders Cycles proprietor Julian Cram said: “It was good, there was a good support and the kids seemed to enjoy it. From my viewpoint, I think next year I might go out into the middle of nowhere, perhaps to one of the climbs where you can actually see people. I hope they’ll bring it back here.”
Fellow spectator Gary Black agreed. He said: “They flew past! We came out to see Cavendish, but barely saw him go past.”
George Nichol from Hawick added: “It was my first time seeing this. The race really puts the town on the map. There were almost more folk here than there was for the Common-Riding!”