Cyclists take on tough circuit

Russell Downing sprints across the line to win the Beaumont trophy.
Russell Downing sprints across the line to win the Beaumont trophy.
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RUSSELL Downing and Sarah Storey were the race winners as Britain’s top professional cyclists returned to Stamfordham on Sunday to contest the Beaumont Trophy and Curlew Cup.

The events drew the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival to a close, with 4,000 intrepid cyclists taking on the challenge provided by the beautiful Northumberland countryside on Saturday.

Downing of Endura Racing sprinted to victory in the Beaumont Trophy, securing his second consecutive win in the 2012 British Cycling Premier Calendar. The 33-year-old rider showed a blistering turn of pace, narrowly winning the prestigious race ahead of Chris Opie (Team UK Youth) and Marcin Bialoblocki (Node 4-Giordana).

The race uses a combination of two circuits. The larger circuit of 22.3 miles included the famous Ryals climb which was tackled three times by the riders.

Once the big circuit had been completed three times passing through the villages of Matfen and Stamfordham on each lap, the riders moved onto the finishing circuit of 13.9 miles which was completed three times – making a total race distance of 108 miles.

Earlier on in the day, Storey (Escentual For Viored RT) extended her lead in the Women’s National Road Series with victory in the inaugural Curlew Cup.

The 34-year-old Paralympian was part of a decisive break of five riders and attacked in the closing stages of the 55-mile race to cross the line a few bike lengths ahead of her nearest rivals Catherine Williams (Bizhub SCF) in second and Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing) in third.

Among the spectators watching the Sunday races was Christopher Stephenson, 42, who took part in the Saturday Cyclone Challenge ride with his son Johnny, 10.

He said: “It was great to see so many families out cycling together. This was my son’s first event and it was fantastic that we could cycle together. When we finished I was really proud because he didn’t have to stop once.

“Then coming to watch the professionals here in Stamfordham was brilliant, you can get really close to the action which helps create a great atmosphere.”

Riders had the choice of three distances on Saturday – 33, 63 or 104 miles. The festival started on Friday in Newcastle with the Criterium races in Leazes Park.