Olympics cycling "a fantastic opportunity" for borough

Thrilled sports fans were this week taking in the news that road cycle races for next year's London Olympics are to pass through Reigate and Banstead borough.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has announced that both the men's and women's races will take in about 130 miles of Surrey roads.

The route will start and finish in London, but will pass through the borough where it borders Box Hill.

In fact, the route will see cyclists lapping Box Hill a number of times.

About a million spectators are expected to line the route, and provide a huge boost to Surrey’s economy.

Kent’s staging of a leg of the Tour De France in 2007 generated an estimated £40 million.

Adam De Save, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council executive member for leisure and wellbeing, called the spectacle “a fantastic opportunity” for the area.

He said: “This is great news and such a fantastic opportunity to be able to welcome such a prestigious event as the London 2012 Olympics to Reigate and Banstead.”

Coun De Save said: “The events will provide a huge boost to the economy, and focus the eyes of the world on Surrey during the opening weekend of the Olympic Games in July 2012.”

He added: “It is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for residents to be able to witness these events almost on their own doorstep.”

John Leitch, founder of the Redhill Raiders Junior Cycle Squad, a club for children aged five to 16 with about 50 members, said: “It will be quite inspiring.”

Mr Leitch, 65, who set up the club three years ago, said: “It's a big, long course starting and ending in London, but by the time they get to us, they will do this little ten-mile loop, taking in Box Hill about ten times.

“So, the beauty for us is we can take a roadside position and see them coming past several times, which is quite splendid.

“It will be quite inspiring for the kids if they get that view.”

He said the Raiders have a strong membership with a good uptake of places, and their Schools Challenge event, which involves numerous local schools, is very successful.

Adrian Webb, chairman of Redhill Cycling Club, said he was “absolutely delighted.”

Mr Webb, whose club was set up in 1945 and has nearly 300 members, said: “Our position is that we are the only club that can claim it home turf, and we go to Box Hill virtually every weekend.

“I was climbing it yesterday.”

Mr Webb said: “We are going to offer our services as the club that knows the area and we are going to offer our services as marshalls.

“Hopefully, there will be 300 of us there in Redhill colours to celebrate it.”

Mr Webb, of Reigate, said Peter King, the former chief executive of British Cycling, the governing body of British cycling, is a member of Redhill Cycling Club and cycles wearing their colours.

He said: “Cycling is taking off in Surrey.

“We are getting five or six every week wanting to join us. It's growing in popularity very quickly.”

He said he thought Box Hill would become a “mecca” for cyclists in the run-up to the Olympics and thousands would flock to line the route there.

“I imagine you won't be able to see much of the hill,” he said.

Ian Burks, chief executive of Reigate and Redhill YMCA, a charity heavily involved in promoting fitness and in staging numerous fundraising cycling events, said: “It's absolutely fantastic. I just can't believe it.”

Mr Burks said: “We've got such fantastic cycling routes in Surrey and the thought of the images going across the world is just phenomenal.

“I am a cyclist myself, and we do all these cycling challenges, and every Tuesday evening through the spring and summer, ahead of these challenges, we drag ourselves up Box Hill.

“These guys will just be flying up there.”

He said: “I think cycling generally over the last few years has just mushroomed. This will increase that even more.

“It's fantastic for the sport and great for the community that people are becoming fitter and more confident as a result of it.”

Horley town clerk Alan Jones called the Olympics news “brilliant.”

He said: “We have heard that there are some teams that are training in Horley – some countries are using some of the facilities.

“I think one or two of the smaller nations.”

He said: “No-one's approached us yet but I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the facilities can be used.”

And Horley mayor and town council chairman Simon Marshall, who has in recent years completed several cycle rides raising funds for Brambles Respite Care Centre in Horley and St Catherine's Hospice, Crawley, called the news “quite excellent.”

He said: “I will go and support them.

“I hope it will be good news for businesses.”

Three business information events are to be held next month (March) to help local companies, big and small, make the most out of the 2012 Games coming to the area.

One of the events will take place in Dorking on March 22, with booking essential.

Public sector organisations in the county have formed the Surrey 2012 group.

The group consists of Surrey County Council and district and borough councils including Reigate and Banstead and Mole Valley, along with Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, the National Trust and Natural England, and its aim is to help ensure the event is a success.

Surrey is already benefiting economically from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The county’s businesses have won almost £740 million worth of contracts related to London 2012.

For more details on the cycle race and how local businesses can become involved, visit the website: www.surrey2012.info

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