ESSEX has grown as a cycling county in the past two years.

Ever since 20,000 people from across the globe came to Hadleigh on Saturday, August 11, 2012, Essex has been imprinted onto the cycling world’s radar.

That day saw the Olympic Mountain Biking event come to Hadleigh Country Farm, with Team GBs Annie Last finishing eighth overall.

However, the day had far more lasting repercussions than the final result, with the country park reaping the benefits of hosting the event, which was watched by millions worldwide.

Chris Boardman, Olympic gold medallist and cycling legend, said Hadleigh was a “brilliant location” to hold the event.

Cycling’s £5.1million legacy plans, including a new bike work shop and learning facilities are currently ongoing and is expected to draw around 400,000 visitors a year.

And £500,000 is also expected to be spent on installing and improving cycle routes in Castle Point, with more cyclists than ever before taking to two wheels.

With such close links to London and Essex’s various scenic back roads, the county is often used as a training base for many of the country’s elite riders. Essex’s very own Mark Cavendish and Alex Dowsett, as well as other professional and semi-pro riders regularly use the roads, as well as celebrities such as Sir Alan Sugar.

Less than two months ago, the cream of the world of women’s cycling visited the north of the county for the Women’s Tour, the first ever professional women’s race in the UK.

Stages three and five entered the north of the county – taking in Manningtree, Thorpe-le-Soken and Clacton – on Wednesday, May 7 before heading into Harwich two days later.

Superstars including new British road race champion Laura Trott and two-time Olympic gold medallist Marriane Vos were star-turns in the event, with thousands of people lining the streets to cheer on the home riders.

The annual Tour de Tendring is also a bit hit with cycling enthusiasts, with hundreds signing up for the 21st instalment of the race last April.

So, with Tour de France fever gripping Essex, there has never a better time to get on your bike.