Following the success of the Grand Depart, Brendan Gallagher spoke to several of the dignitaries at the start to gauge their reaction as Britain’s biggest women’s cycle race got underway.

OUNDLE's Lord Mayor Neil Fraser wants his town to be a permanent part of the Friends Life Women's Tour but if that can't be the case he has vowed to organise an annual Oundle Criterium Race in the picturesque Northamptonshire town which staged such a well-supported Grand Depart to the inaugural Friends Life Women’s Tour.

“I am not sure what the race's future plans are but we would like to be involve in the Friends Life Women’s Tour whenever we can be and indeed the men’s Tour,” says Fraser, a keen cyclist himself. “And if we can't be involved some years we want to organise an invitational women’s crit around Oundle, it will be a small tight course but very exciting and all the great riders here today will know that they will be among friends. We think are obviously biased and think we could host a stage of the Women’s Tour year on year on year. After today we would absolutely love to keep our involvement in cycling going now we have made this fantastic start

“Oundle is place that just gets behind things and we have loved being a part of this. I am not all surprised at the turn out. I like my cycling and I have been to a few Departs in my time but this is the best, it knocks spots off anything I have been to in France and Spain. The town and visitors have turned out in their droves but then again I knew deep down they would. This is a really important day, the first day of the first women’s international stage race in Britain, and British sports fans know when an event is worth getting behind.”

Meanwhile Cllr Heather Smith, the Deputy leader of Northamptonshire County Council, was another blown away by the day. It was Smith who helped breathe life into the Friends Life Women’s Tour concept by her immediate support when approached by organisers SweetSpot. She set the ball rolling for others:

“Guy Elliott had been speaking to us for less than 20 minutes and already my mind was made up, he didn't need to do anymore selling! It's a way of showcasing Northamptonshire and encouraging women and girls to participate in sport. It just ticks every conceivable box. I pledged out support there and then although it did suddenly dawn on me later that day that I had just committed money and resources to this project without really clearing it with anybody. Luckily everybody shared my enthusiasm, I have never known less debate or argument over whether we should do something or not.

“Oundle is the area I represent so today was doubly special for me, I actually felt very emotional and tearful. To have a chance to show the world how lovely Oundle is and how beautiful the county of Northamptonshire felt very special.”

Another one close to tears was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of the most decorated Paralympians who campaigns for women’s sport in the House of Lords and officially started the race in Oundle

“This is one of my most emotional moments in a life in sport, to see the excitement and support of everybody here this morning was quite something. For some reason I started crying when I saw all the police motorbikes arrive early in the morning – it suddenly seemed very real and inspiring a big international women’s race was about to get underway in this country.

“When you get the best women cyclists in the world all coming on the stage as they did at the start and saying “this is amazing” and “this is the best reception we have ever received before a race” you know it is special. London 2012 was brilliant but this is the real legacy of the games. It's event like this that shine a light on the Olympic legacy. It's about having races to get behind and support inspiring people, and today showed that this country still understands that. The women will appreciate it so much; it makes such a difference when the riders know you have bothered to come out. The Friends Life Women’s Tour is a brilliant idea pure and simple.

“It's great for the teams to have that level of interest but it is also a real boon for the local communities it goes through These events make a big difference, we all know that, it’s just making them happen that is the challenge There will be boys and girls here today who think 'I want to be like one of these cyclists'. The cyclist are so accessible, you see them walking down the street, in and out of the coffee shops, it all feels quite intimate and friendly.

“I really do hope we are moving beyond the days now when you we talk about women’s sport as a separate entity. Sport is sport. A cracking bike race and cycling occasion is just that regardless of whether it is men or women riding. One of the things I absolutely loved about today were the many groups of male riders – pretty good midweek club riders by the look of them – who had obviously organised their morning out to make sure they were in Oundle to take in the race and the event.  When you get significant numbers of men coming to watch women’s sport you known you are on to a good thing.”