WHEN Olympian Bradley Wiggins cycles through St Helens next week on the Tour of Britain he will be travelling on roads which he knows like the back of his hand.
Coming on the heels of London 2012, the race looks set to generate huge interest locally, when the cyclists hit the town on Monday, September 10.
Tour de France champion and four-time Olympic gold medallist Wiggins, who lives in Chorley, is no stranger to the borough.
John Cheshire, secretary of St Helens Cycle Racing Club, said: “We organised a time trial on the Rainford bypass, with Bradley Wiggins’ club the Wigan Wheelers. So he’s done it a few times.
“He’s also ridden with the St Helens chain gang, with his wife, who also races.
“I don’t know the official record for the time trial, but I believe he holds it.”
John has met Bradley several times, and described him as “a great bloke”.
He said: “Bradley was with us earlier in the year. He’d been racing abroad so I hadn’t seen him for a while.
“But in April he was riding with the chain gang, and I was alongside him for around 15 minutes, just having a chat. “He’s been coming down here ever since he moved up here.
“When he rides with us he’s just one of the lads. “He chats with everyone and there are no airs and graces about him.”
John, who has been involved in local cycling for 18 years, said the Tour of Britain would stimulate more interest.
He said: “A couple of years ago we were averaging around 30 members. That number has increased to about 75.
“Since the Olympics we are getting inquiries almost every other day.
“Now we are trying to organise rides for young and inexperienced riders.”
On leg two of the event, from Nottingham to Knowsley, the riders will enter St Helens borough at about 1.30pm via Garswood, travelling from Billinge Road to Newton Road in Billinge and down Main Street, before heading along Rainford Road, towards Crank.
Following this they travel to Higher Lane in Rainford and on to Ormskirk Road and the Rainford bypass before ending the stage at Knowsley Safari Park.
Among the riders will be St Helens cyclist Johnny McEvoy of the Endura Racing Team.
To add more stardust to the event the world’s best sprinter and current world road champion winner, Mark Cavendish, from Team Sky, is also competing.
Knowsley Safari Park, where the cyclists will cross the finishing line, is aiming to create a memorable carnival atmosphere, with entertainment, mini-athletics, cycle racing and a bike themed treasure hunt.