SOUTH Cumbria will play a huge role in the Tour of Britain this year as a beautiful trophy from the heart of the area takes centre stage.

This year the overall winner of the Tour of Britain, the UK equivalent of the iconic cycling race the Tour de France, will be awarded with a bespoke crystal trophy, created by Cumbria Crystal in Ulverston.

The London podium, which has seen the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen, Dylan Van Baarle and Sir Bradley Wiggins collecting the overall winner's prize, will soon welcome a new victor to the history books when the 2016 winner passes the finishing post in London.

Many miles north of the finish line, in Ulverston, Cumbria Crystal's managing director Chris Blade and 25-year-old glass-making apprentice, Charlotte Hudson, have been working hard alongside the rest of the team to create the perfect trophy.

Due to Britain's outstanding performances in the cycling events in the London Olympics in 2012 and the Rio Olympics which have just ended, cycling has become an incredibly popular sport in Britain. Names like Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome have become just as well-known as the names of Manchester United footballers and England rugby players.

Hundreds of thousands of British people have got on their bikes as a result, so no doubt the Tour of Britain will have a rapt audience when it gets under way this Sunday, September 4.

Mr Blade, of Cavendish Street, Ulverston, said: "I am a keen cyclist myself so I was delighted when the organiser of the Tour of Britain called in to Cumbria Crystal just by chance.

"Hugh Roberts, the managing director of Sweetspot Ltd, which organises the cycling event, just called in as he was passing on his own bike and fell in love with some of our glass pieces.

"We were just chatting and we came up with the idea of making a fantastic bowl for the first prize trophy."

The bowl left Ulverston just over two weeks before the start of the race and will create yet another connection between Britain's top cyclists and the Lake District.

The is also a 117-mile Cumbria stage in the race which will start from Carlisle. The riders will then head off through Penrith, Cockermouth, Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside and Windermere before a final gruelling ascent up Beast Banks in Kendal.

Mr Blade said: "It is appropriate that the trophy - crafted through sweat, endurance, heat and energy - will mirror the achievements and efforts of the competitors. We hope the winner will see the trophy not just as a symbol of recognition for their heroic efforts, but as a lasting testament to the dedication required to becoming the best, whether in the arena of sports or the arts.”

Four Cumbrian schools will also get the chance to take part in the finishing straight in Kendal from noon until 1pm. British Cycling is running the Go-Ride schools competition, which will involve pupils from all over Cumbria.

Mr Blade has been helping young people to hone their talent during the making of the trophy too. Apprentice Charlotte Hudson, of Fawn Close, Askam, did most of the work engraving the piece. Mr Blade said: "Charlotte has been at the company for about one year now and it soon became clear that she had a real talent for engraving.

"She is a really creative person and was planning on attending art college before she accepted her apprenticeship here. It will be a really proud moment for her to see a piece she has personally worked so hard on being in the spotlight for such a big event."

For the cycling fans who will be getting ready to follow the race, our heroic record Tour de France stage winner, Mark Cavendish, will probably be leading the way, alongside fellow top sprinter André Greipel and former UCI World Hour Record holder Rohan Dennis.

Cavendish, who has 30 stage victories in the Tour de France, won his first Olympic medal in Rio in early August, taking Silver in the Omnium track event, and will be targeting the World Road Race Championships in Qatar in October. The Tour of Britain will be his first race post-Olympics.


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