ON Saturday evening, Vale Royal Schools Sports Partnership development manager Chris Story wrote a tweet.
It read: “How many young people get an opportunity to see an event through an athlete’s eyes, and in their home town?”
He was replying to a message from Northwich Town Council’s account thanking him and his team for their hard work in the hours before Friday’s Tour Series round.
It isn’t necessary to ask the kids, more than 1,000 of them, what they felt about cycling or running around a course that later would become a stage for the best riders in the land.
Why? Because it was written all over their faces already.
There has been plenty of debate, both before and afterwards, as to the merits of hosting a national sporting event in Northwich.
Much of it is flawed, mind, because we have nothing to compare it to.
How can anybody say whether the attendance was large (or small) when the number of those watching was fluid throughout the day and at different parts of the town-centre circuit?
There was no entrance, nor an exit, either.
It was free as well.
I’d argue one of the most important measures of whether a visit from the Tour Series has been worth it is whether it has captured the imagination of its youngest observers.
By spending time on the course, and being cheered loudly to the finish line – whether on two wheels or by foot – those children from nearby primary schools provided a stirring warm-up for the main event.
Riders at the start of the Matrix Fitness GP series women's race in Northwich town centre on Friday night. Picture: Dave Gillespie
“The next day it returned to being Watling Street again,” Chris said to me on Monday.
“But for those few hours, it was something else to those kids.
“The atmosphere it created, with their mums and dads stood at the side of the road cheering them on with their friends, was something unique.”
That’s persuasive, right?
Of course, there is prestige to being one of 10 stopping points for a series that travels the length and breadth of England and Scotland.
A profile on ITV Sport’s highlights programme, during which presenter Ned Boulting described Northwich as an ‘exciting place to live and work with a range of development projects coming to fruition’ adds to that.
It’s something Northwich Town Council and Northwich BID – who together made it happen along with Cheshire West and Chester Council – deserve credit.
And no, they had nothing to do with picking a date.
That’s the preserve of Tour officials, who sketch out their calendar independently of what ‘Mr and Mrs Angry’ – as race director Mick Bennett calls them – might write on Facebook.
On a wander around the course during the men’s race, I was stopped for a chat by faces I recognise from cricket, football and rugby clubs in Northwich.
Olympic rowing champion Matt Langridge, himself an enthusiastic convert to cycling, also watched on with interest.
So too did many members of Weaver Valley Cycling Club, distinctive in their blue and yellow uniforms.
At the absolute minimum, a visit from the Tour Series had made them curious.
I felt the same, and afterwards my appreciation for the skill, strength and stamina of those taking part was richer than before.
Northwich rider Matt Nowell, centre, and his BIKE Channel Canyon teammates are presented to the crowd before the men's race on Friday. Picture: Dave Gillespie
It was brilliant to hear the roar of an enthusiastic crowd when a bell rang to signal a last lap.
The riders responded, and it was striking to see their mud-spattered, anguish-filled looks of sheer exhaustion before they were washed clean ahead of the post-race podium ceremony.
There was one among them, Matt Nowell, that first raced with his home-town club as a teenager.
He went to a school down the road, and now he’s a professional rider.
It’s hard to measure inspiration in pounds and pence, and of course councillors must consider economics when they decide whether last Friday was a one-off.
I just hope they at least think about intangibles too.