FOR the third successive year, many of Britain’s top professional cycling teams will head for the county town this summer.
The 2012 Stafford Grand Prix, which takes place on town centre roads, was launched in Market Square.
Once again the event, which attracts big crowds, will be part of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series.
Both the schedule and course for this year are changed slightly with hand cycling making its debut in the programme.
The evening will also feature schools racing and an under-16 rac, that will all form part of the build up to the main event when the professionals take to the streets.
Meanwhile, the course, while largely the same with its start and finish in Market Square, will this year see the riders race along Mill Bank (instead of Mill Street), before turning into the finish straight along Greengate Street.
Last year’s race produced a strong performance from the Rapha Condor Sharp (RCS) team, with three out of a group of four dominating throughout.
However, the 2012 race looks like being more open and organiser Paul Rowlands said: “Rapha Condor Sharp have lost national champion Graham Briggs to Raleigh, while 2011 winner Dean Windsor is now with Endura.” Among the teams present at the launch were Raleigh, Endura, Cycle Premier and RCS, all of whom have promised to send strong teams to the Stafford race on July 4.
For the first time the Stafford GP has secured a title sponsor. Sheffield-based- Claremont Hospital works with a number of primary care trusts in the region and through its sports medicine and performance centre is already a sponsor in the sport.
“Stafford GP is a great community event and as a business we wanted to show the people of the town what a great place we think it is and show how much we value our relationship with the town,” said Jane Davidson of Claremont Hospital.
“Having seen more than 350 patients and performed around 180 neuro-spinal operations on patients from Stafford, it’s nice as a business to be able to put something back into the local community.” Mayor of Stafford, Stan Highfield said: “The event is good for our economy. It has become a welcome feature on the annual sporting calender in Stafford.” As in previous years, a number of local businesses have committed their support to this year’s GP including the Swan Hotel, Henry Burton Cycles, Stafford College and Stafford Borough Council, with more to be announced in the coming weeks.