A cycling festival, which draws thousands of people to the North East each year, is set to expand even further with world recognition.
This year’s Virgin Money Cyclone event, which attracts thousands of people from amateurs to professionals heading to Newcastle to take part, has won the highest accolade in cycling from world governing body, the Union Cycliste International (UCI).
It is the first time the North East will stage a UCI event, which sees the famed Beaumont Trophy race classified as a European tour event.
The Northumberland circuit, which takes in rural villages like Matfen and Stamfordham, is now one of only four UCI road races to be held in the UK.
Previous winners of the race, which first launched in Gosforth Park in 1952, include Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and triple Olympic medalist Chris Newton.
The accreditation is a huge boost not only to the region’s cycling community but also to local businesses who benefit from £500,000 worth of inward investment during the four-day event.
The event’s founder and organiser Peter Harrison said: “We’re extremely proud to bring a new UCI event to the North East, particularly as there has never been an event of this stature staged in the area before.
“We’ve been trying to get UCI status for a few years now because it’s the equivalent of hosting a grand prix in athletics terms.
“The North East is a great place for cycling because Northumberland has more miles of road than any other county in the UK. It’s also sparsely populated which is ideal for road races of this scale.”
Now in its eighth year, the event attracts over 5,000 riders, from elite level professionals and serious cycling enthusiasts to people looking to undertake their first race or enjoy a leisure ride. Elite level riders will use the historic Beaumont Trophy to hone their skills ahead of the British National Road Championships the following weekend.
Some may go on to ride the Tour de France, which starts in Yorkshire on July 5.
The trophy race centres around the village of Stamfordham and takes in the notorious Ryals climb. Spectators will see some of the world’s best-known cyclists tackle the event, including all of the major British teams and even some international competitors. The Curlew Cup, a women’s national road race event, follows the same course as the men’s event.
Previous winners include Dame Sarah Storey in 2012 and Hannah Barnes in 2013.
Young riders can take part in the Leazes Criteriums event, held within the grounds of Newcastle’s Leazes Park. The evening also offers races for seniors and will include an elite race with Olympic and world championship medallists.
The festival takes place from June 19 to June 22. For more information and to register visit www.virginmoneycyclone.co.uk .