SOME of the world's best cyclists could be heading to North Devon shortly after the 2012 Olympic Games.
Barnstaple is hosting the start of stage seven of this year's Tour of Britain in September. The tour is the UK's largest professional cycling race and Team GB cyclists including Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins have taken part in past events.
As the race is taking place just a few weeks after the 2012 Olympics, it is hoped many of the Olympic competitors and medal winners will take part.
Thousands of people are expected to come to North Devon to watch the start of stage seven which is the penultimate leg of the race.
Stage six of The Tour of Britain 2009 whizzed through Barnstaple before finishing in Bideford where more than 15,000 people had gathered to cheer the cyclists over the finish line.
That tour is believed to have injected more than £2 million into the region and it is hoped the Barnstaple economy will receive a huge boost from this year's event.
North Devon Council has set aside £3,500 to support infrastructure costs and its parks leisure team will be assisting with community events.
The council said The Tour of Britain organisers are considering possible community events associated with the race and are in discussion with Barnstaple Town Centre Management and local authorities.
Events being considered include a short distance cycle circuit race in Barnstaple on the Friday evening before the main Saturday race, and a community ride at the start of the main event on Saturday.
Councillor Derrick Spear said: "This is the only stage of the race that will be taking place in the South West and that says it all."
Council officer, Mark Kentell, said: "This race has national, if not international, appeal.
"There are likely to be cyclists from the Olympics, Mark Cavendish and the like, taking part. We are expecting large crowds."
Stage seven of the 2012 tour will start in Barnstaple Square on Saturday, September 15.
The cyclists will travel through Bideford, Torrington, Hatherleigh, Okehampton, Lydford, Tavistock, Ashburton, Buckfastleigh and Kingsbridge before finishing in Dartmouth.
For more information on The Tour of Britain 2012 visit www.tourofbritain.com