IT was sunshine all the way as the Commonwealth Games cycling road races came to Warwick.
It proved another great success for the district having already received widespread praise for its hosting of the Birmingham 2022 bowls competitions at the greens in Leamington’s Victoria Park.
Organised jointly by Warwickshire County Council (WCC) and Warwick District Council (WDC), both the men’s and women’s races started and finished in the town on Sunday.
The riders followed a 16 kilometre circuit which took them from the start line at Myton Fields, opposite Warwick School, through the town centre and out into the countryside passing through Hampton on the Hill and Hampton Magna, before sweeping back into Warwick along the Birmingham Road.
They then headed down Emscote Road before briefly riding into Leamington along Warwick New Road and Princes Drive and then turning back onto Myton Road to complete the circuit.
For the women, who set off at 8am, it was seven laps totalling 112 kilometres, and for the men, who started at 12.30pm, it was 160 kilometres over ten laps.
One of the few Commonwealth Games events that people were able to watch for free, coupled with the glorious weather, saw large crowds gather along the route to cheer on the riders – applauding all who passed by regardless of their place in their respective race – and creating a fantastic atmosphere.
Known as the ‘friendly games’, the marshalls and police chatted happily with spectators as they ensured everything went smoothly, while those in race support cars and on motorbikes waved to those lining the route as they passed by.
The nature of the Commonwealth Games brings together riders of very different abilities, from amateurs to big name professionals such as former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, representing Wales, and star sprinter Mark Cavendish riding for the Isle of Man.
The Australians were among the favourites for the women’s race and so it proved as Georgina Baker took gold in a sprint finish and fellow countrywomen Sarah Roy the bronze, with Scotland’s Neah Evans splitting the Aussie pair to take silver. They crossed the finish line in just under two hours and 45 minutes.
The men’s race produced a thrilling climax after a 15-man breakaway in the closing laps. In the end New Zealand’s Aaron Gate won the race to the line to collect his fourth gold of the games following three on the track.
South African Daryl Impey took silver and Scotland’s Finn Crockett bronze. Thomas made a valiant late dash for gold but ran out of steam a couple of hundreds metres short of the finish. Cavendish failed to figure after getting left behind in the main peleton.
They finished in just over three hours and 28 minutes.
WDC leader Coun Andrew Day said: “Warwick have turned out, young and old, to once again support world class cycling and have been treated with some superb road racing. What an exciting day we’ve had witnessing amazing performances, which will no doubt inspire the next generations of cycling champions.
“The faces of our visitors beaming as they joined the events we’ve hosted across Warwick district, reflect not only the years of preparation, but the warm welcome given by hundreds of wonderful local volunteers.
“The engrossing lawn bowls and para lawn bowls competition at Victoria Park in Leamington have been given a fitting finale with the cycling road races in Warwick.
“It has been a joyful time to join our guests and wholeheartedly celebrate these friendly Games, sharing with all 54 nations visiting our extraordinary and beautiful corner of the Commonwealth.”
While an Aussie and a New Zealander may have taken the golds, there was certanly another winner on the day – Warwick.