Cream of world cycling set to roll into town

Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins will be hoping for podium finishes at this year’s Tour de France and the Olympic Games – but Britain’s star cyclists could cap a summer of success with victory in a race that runs through Hawick.

Cavendish, the world’s number one road rider, and Wiggins, who won two golds at the 2008 Olympics, are likely to contest the Tour of Britain in September, and the third stage of the event will see the world’s top cyclists pass through the town en route from Jedburgh to Dumfries.

Isle of Man ace Cavendish, who won the British Sports Personality of the Year award last year, could compete for the final time as 2011 world champion in the event, parading his rainbow jersey through the grey auld toon before the 2012 World Championships in Limburg, Holland, the following week.

The Tour of Britain’s Scottish leg did not take in the town during the Peebles to Dumfries stage last year but passed through Hawick en route from Peebles to Gretna in 2009. Cyclists rode along Commercial Road, through Sandbed and past Tower Knowe, before leaving the town by Liddesdale Road and via Limekiln Edge towards Dumfries.

Local cycling enthusiasts are excited at the prospect of the cream of the world’s road-racing talent making tracks through the town. Hawick Cycling Club member Hamish Smith likened the reception granted by local people during the 2009 race to that of spectators at the famous Tour de France.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “A few years ago they came through Hawick and there was a huge turnout, with big flags running up the road like in the Tour de France. I was amazed at the reaction of the Hawick people, the way they took to it. The race passing through here adds to the intrigue around cycling in Britain.”

Mr Smith had some stage advice for spectators looking to catch a glimpse of the likes of Cavendish and Wiggins as they speed through the town.

“It can be over in a bit of a flash, but the best place to view it is on a climb, when the riders are going uphill more slowly,” he said. “Going by the last time, I think there will be a huge turnout.”

Tour of Britain race director Mick Bennett said of Cavendish’s possible participation: “I think it would be highly probable, but there’s never a guarantee.”

After leaving Hawick, racers will pass St Mary’s Loch and Moffat, and Mr Bennett said the stage will offer a tough test. “We’ve got a race of two halves,” he explained. “The first four stages are designed for the sprinter rather than climbers.”