BARRIERS were rattled in excitement, international flags fluttered in the breeze and choruses of cheers boomed along the High Street as Northallerton welcomed in the world.

The town took centre stage today as the starting point for the UCI Road World Championships elite men’s time trial which saw the world’s best cyclists race against the clock along a 54km route to Harrogate.

And whilst the previous day’s action in North Yorkshire was blighted by thundery downpours and flooding which forced the closure of Harrogate’s fan zone, there were no such problems in Northallerton as warm September sunshine bathed the event.

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It is the first time since 1982 that the prestigious cycling championships has been held in Britain, and with an estimated global television audience of around 250million, it has provided North Yorkshire with a priceless platform to show the world what it is made of.

And Northallerton rose to that challenge.

Thousands of spectators created a carnival atmosphere and businesses along the length of the high street embraced the occasion, with many adopting competing countries and decorating their premises accordingly.

“It is once in a lifetime, this,” said Bill Burton, senior partner of Maxwells of Northallerton who watched the action from the front of his shop wearing a jaunty Stars and Stripes top-hat.

“The atmosphere has been fantastic, no business is being done but we expected that and it is great to see Northallerton turn out like this, it is superb.”

Bill, who has worked at Maxwells since 1963, added that he had never seen anything like it in the town before.

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“I think it is first class, it has put Northallerton as the County Town of North Yorkshire on the map, as it should be,” he proudly proclaimed.

Celebrity vet Julian Norton, well-known for his TV role on the popular programme The Yorkshire Vet was among those soaking up the atmosphere.

He said: “It is very good, it is lively and it is full of all sorts of people; some cycling enthusiasts and some just interested parties. It is great to be part of, it’s really good.”

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For another spectator, Richard Paget of Leeds, the event brought back memories of when he competed in time trial cycling in the 1960s.

A keen cycling fan, Richard has been making his way to UCI host towns throughout the week and enjoyed his first ever visit to Northallerton.

“It is good for the towns,” he said. “When the Tour de France (Grand Depart) came round a few years ago it was unbelievable how it affected everywhere,” added Richard, who also shared the fact that his grandfather Cecil is ‘down in writing’ as the person who invented cycling ponchos after developing them from trawlermen’s capes.

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As with any major event, months of planning and preparation must precede and Hambleton District Council leader Mark Robson was clearly pleased with the fruits of Northallerton’s labour.

“It is absolutely great,” he said, “We couldn’t have asked for any better, to be able to host the top event in world cycling is fantastic.

“The shops, the businesses, they have all pulled together - we had 53 different shops enter the best dressed competition to welcome spectators who have come from across the country and the world to be here.

“Today is a good day for the County Town of North Yorkshire, and for Hambleton District.”

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One visitor adding an international flavour to the occasion was ‘Aussie Pete’ who hails from Brisbane but spent the afternoon in Northallerton flipping burgers outside The Potting Shed with jovial aplomb.

He boasted that the racing would be a ‘Southern Hemisphere whitewash’ - which was sort of proven as Aussie rider Rohan Dennis did emerge victorious later on.

And with his broad Australian accident, cowboy hat and colourful tee-shirt, ‘Aussie Pete’ was a hit with passersby who smiled as he joked that his burgers were ‘crocodile and kangaroo - only wrestled once’.

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“The people of Northallerton are unbelievably friendly,” Pete beamed. “They are such nice people it makes me feel at home. I would recommend this place to anybody.”

As the event wound down, thoughts turned to the next racing action which gives Richmond a chance to shine as it hosts the Junior Men’s road race today.

It will doubtless be a fantastic affair, but Northallerton has truly thrown down the gauntlet when it comes to making the most of a once in a lifetime event.