IT’S probably one of the last things the animals at Knowsley Safari Park would expect to see.
But it has been confirmed that cycling’s Tour of Britain is set to finish a stage at the local visitor attraction later this year.
In September, 100 of the world’s best cyclists will race into the safari park’s grounds for a spectacular finish to the tour’s 178km second stage.
In last year’s event Olympic gold medallist Geraint Thomas, who trains in Newton-le-Willows, was among the leaders before crashing out on Stage Six.
Sheena Ramsey, the chief executive of Knowsley Council, said: “We’re delighted to be a part of this key sporting event. To be welcoming so many world class sportspeople here is really exciting and we promise to make this stage of the event really memorable for everyone.
“We’ve spent millions of pounds creating world class leisure facilities in Knowsley and these sorts of events can really inspire us all to get more involved in sport.”
And Edward Perry, the safari park’s operations director, hailed the link-up with the council as a great way of promoting the sport.
He said: “Cycling is a very popular sport in the area and, with the new velodrome at Huyton in mind, Knowsley Safari Park is delighted to work with Knowsley Council to raise further awareness of the sport by hosting a stage finish of the Tour of Britain.
“However, I suspect the competitors on the day will have other matters on their minds as they sprint past our herd of African elephants!”
Stage Two of the Tour of Britain will begin at Nottingham Castle on the morning of September 10, before a route through Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire brings the top-class field to the safari park finale.
It represents the first time that the prestigious race has come to Merseyside in the last three years.
Mick Bennett, the Tour of Britain’s race director, said: “It is sure to be one to remember for fans.”