An estimated 17,000 people saw the Tour of Britain cyclists pass through Cornwall on 5th September, according to new figures.

Tour of Britain John Chard
Competitors head out of St Ives along The Terrace. Photograph: John Chard

That would make it one of the biggest opening stage audiences race organiser SweetSpot has ever had, and certainly the largest crowd for an opening stage in the last seven years.

The Cornwall stage is expected to have drawn a return of at least £3.4 million in extra Sunday trading for everything from accommodation, taxis and transport, retail, and catering on what was, for most, the last weekend of the summer holidays.

The event had worldwide TV coverage on Eurosport, live UK coverage on ITV4, and BBC Radio 5 Live, and saw sports and news crews, photographers, and journalists from across Europe and elsewhere describing Cornwall to their readers and viewers. 

St Ives’ Linda Taylor, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “It is rarely you get a countywide uplift of spirits in a single day, but everyone I saw from the start to the finish was wearing a broad smile and cheering.

“After the G7 summit as a political event, we’ve now shown the world how well we can host a great sporting event, too. My thanks to all the organisers, the spectators, and of course the riders, for a day of great joy.”

‘Nice to see people are so crazy about cycling’

Cyclists set off from Penzance on Sunday morning and completed the first 180km stage to Bodmin, passing through Hayle and St Erth, before heading east, via Falmouth and Truro.

Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo – Visma) sprinted to victory in the opening stage, beating Nils Eekhoff (Team DSM) and Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar Team).

Van Aert said: “Being here it was almost overwhelming seeing the amount of crowds at the side of the roads. We have been missing this in the last two years, and it’s nice to see people outside again and especially in a crowd together. It’s nice to see people are so crazy about cycling — it makes it more beautiful when we win.

“It was a tough stage. It was good for me to adapt to these kind of roads and to get used to them. The stage was controlled and, yeah, racing, high speeds, and obviously on a first day of a race everybody is still fresh, so it was a big battle to be at the front for the sprint. My teammates helped me secure a good position, and I think I did the right timing in the sprint.”

• Find out more about the Tour of Britain on the official website