County race attracts the sport’s biggest names

BRITISH cycling superstars have confirmed they will be taking part in a major race in Northumberland later this month.

Tour de France multiple stage winner Mark Cavendish is to ride in the National Elite Road Race Championships on Sunday, June 26.

Olympic gold medallist and recent Critérium du Dauphiné winner Bradley Wiggins is also competing on the course which goes through Stamfordham and nearby hamlets as is Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas who will be defending his title.

The winner of this race will wear the National Champions jersey in international races.

Thomas said: “I’m obviously going to try my best to win it again but it’s going to be hard as it looks a bit of an easier course than last year so a lot more guys can race it.

“But it has been great being the national champion over the last 12 months – it’s like representing Great Britain in every race you are in.

“You obviously stand out a bit more and it’s similar to wearing the leader’s jersey in a stage race, you just get that lift every day you’ve got it on.”

The British National Elite Road Racing Championships will be held as part of the Northern Rock Cyclone weekend.

On Friday, June 24, the Leazes Criteriums involves a series of thrilling races around Newcastle’s Leazes Park from 6.15pm.

They will be held at youth, amateur and elite levels.

The following day (Saturday, June 25) the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge is the biggest mass-bike ride to take place on open roads in the UK and brings thousands of cyclists to the area.

For 2011, up to 5,000 cyclists of all types – from families to professional riders – are expected to take on the 33, 66 and 107 mile routes, largely in the Northumberland countryside.

The two longer routes will take in parts of the National Elite Road Race Championships route, including the challenging Ryals climb.

All routes start and finish from the Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club ground at Kingston Park.

Organisers estimate that local businesses will benefit to the tune of more than half a million pounds from the three days of amateur and professional races, whilst more than £200,000 is expected to be raised for various charities.

Event organiser Peter Harrison said: “The Northern Rock Cyclone was the first cycling event in the country that allowed amateur riders to mix with and watch some of the best riders in the world.

“This year, we will have more Olympic and World champions taking part than any other sporting event the North East has seen.

“The ambition is to put the race on a par with the top events in Europe and to become the cycling equivalent of the Great North Run.”

For more information about these events, visit www.northernrockcyclone.co.uk

You can also find the event on Twitter @nrcyclone or join the Northern Rock Cyclone group on Facebook.