With three days to go until one of the biggest spectacles in the sporting calendar gets under way, KATE SCOTTER discovers how Norfolk is ready to welcome this year’s Tour of Britain.

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Excitement is building as communities across Norfolk gear up to welcome national cycling heroes Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in this year’s Tour of Britain.

The race is set to draw thousands of people when it gets its wheels in motion on Sunday.

This year, Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils are co-hosting the very first stage of the country’s biggest professional cycling race with the ‘grand depart’ at the Waterfront in Ipswich.

The Adnams-supported stage will see a stellar line up of riders head through towns and villages in Suffolk before crossing into Norfolk near Great Yarmouth where there will be a sprint along South Beach Parade.

The 100-strong peloton will then race onto Caister, Filby, Potter Heigham, Hoveton, Coltishall, Reepham, Swanton Morley, Dereham, Mattishall, East Tuddenham, Colton and Easton before finishing at the Norfolk Showground at Costessey.

At the finish, a free family fun day has been arranged to coincide with the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2012 in association with Norfolk County Council and South Norfolk Council.

Last year, more than 150,000 people lined the streets to watch the East Anglia stage of the race – and after Wiggins’s success at the Olympic Games and the Tour de France, and Team GB’s success at the Olympic Games, even more people are expected to turn out for this weekend’s opening stage of the Tour of Britain.

Barry Stone, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for cultural services, said: “The Tour of Britain stage through Norfolk and Suffolk is just a matter of days away and there is a high level of anticipation amongst so many of our residents.

“That will only increase after both Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have been confirmed in the provisional starting line-up for Team Sky. There are also stage winners from previous Tour of Britain and Tour de France races competing and five Olympic medallists taking part.

“The weather forecast for Sunday is looking promising and whether welcoming the race as it enters Great Yarmouth, at our finish event at the Norfolk Showground, or any point in between, I’m sure we will see thousands of people cheering on those taking part.” Events have been planned across the county, with entertainers set to take to the streets in Reepham and Horstead, cakes being baked for family fun days in Mattishall and Swanton Morley and finishing touches being made to a Bradley Wiggins-esque scarecrow in Reydon.

And weather forecasters are currently predicting warm and sunny conditions.

Spectators are being asked to think about walking, cycling or taking public transport to watch the race where possible. If driving is the only option available, people are being asked to consider car sharing with friends and family – particularly if heading to the Tour of Britain finish event at the Norfolk Showground.

The Tour of Britain will be operating with rolling road closures along the route. On the day, roads and junctions will be closed only for the time needed for the first and last race cyclists and their support vehicles to pass, not for the full duration of the event itself. This will be enforced by police motorcyclists.

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