Cycling continues to grow in popularity both as a participation and a spectator sport, and that is certainly the case in the North East, where there are over 100 cycling clubs and over 240 cycling routes.
Northumberland provides a range of routes for cyclists of all abilities, whether through coastal flatland routes, or up steep demanding climbs, offering fantastic views of its spectacular countryside.
One of the UK’s most respected cycling events that is synonymous with the North East is the Virgin Money Cyclone, which has attracted a staggering 30,000 participants since its launch in 2007.
That equates to 28 riders for every resident of Stamfordham, the Northumbrian village that plays host to much of the three-day festival weekend.
Now in its fourth year since Virgin Money took over the sponsorship of the event, the 2015 Virgin Money Cyclone takes place over the weekend of June 19-21.
The event continues to evolve and go from strength to strength and 2015 will see a return to the original three-day format:
Friday Evening – Tyne Six Bridges Leisure Ride
Aimed at less experienced riders and families, the 10.5 or 15.5 mile routes follow the north and south banks of the River Tyne, taking in the Gateshead Millennium, Tyne, Swing, High Level, Redheugh and Scotswood bridges.
Saturday – Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge Rides
A choice of three rides for cyclists of all ability, offering routes of 34, 64 or 106 miles and providing varying degrees of difficulty. Challenge rides start and finish at the Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club and take in the spectacular backdrop of the Northumbrian countryside, avoiding the city traffic.
Sunday – Elite races
Women’s National Series Road Race – The Curlew Cup
A Women’s National Series Road Race, which attracts some of the best riders in the country, including Olympic and World medallists. Competitors will complete three laps of 13.9 miles each before going on to the 22.3 mile circuit used in the men’s race, crossing the finish line in Stamfordham.
Men’s Race – The Beaumont Trophy
The Beaumont Trophy starts with a single lap of the 13.9 mile circuit used in the women’s event. Riders then progress to a 22.3 mile circuit that included the climb of the Ryals. This is ridden four times before a final lap of the first, smaller circuit, making a total distance of 117 miles.
For full event information and to register for one of the rides, visit www.virginmoneycyclone.co.uk . The closing date for entries to the challenge rides is June 10, 2015.
It’s not only cyclists who feel the benefit of the sport’s growing popularity. The Virgin Money Cyclone is one of the region’s most successful attractions, generating tourism and funds for local communities.
The village of Stamfordham has seen some of the world’s most famous cyclists fly through the village on their way to glory in the Beaumont Trophy and Curlew Cup.
It is at the epicentre of the festival and the Virgin Money Cyclone helps bolster tourism income for local businesses in the surrounding community during the race weekend.
Virgin Money Cyclone founder and organiser, Peter Harrison, said: “The North East has so much to offer to cyclists of all ages and abilities, from relaxed and traffic-free rides along the water as in the Tyne Six Bridges, to the hill climbs of a challenge ride and those professional world-class races.
“The Virgin Money Cyclone welcomes teams that get together to take on a challenge and support charity with their rides, as well as the hordes of spectators who turn out each year to cheer them on.”
Virgin Money head of sponsorship, Andrew Nicholson, added: “We would love to see the 2015 event become the biggest yet. Many novice cyclists sign-up to fundraise for charity through Virgin Money Giving and with professional teams promising some great racing action, it’s an event everyone can share in.''