Get on your bikes, says Branson

Sir Richard Branson is encouraging people to take part in the upcoming Virgin Money Cyclone Cycling Festival.  Geoff Caddick/PA
Sir Richard Branson is encouraging people to take part in the upcoming Virgin Money Cyclone Cycling Festival. Geoff Caddick/PA
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SIR Richard Branson has thrown his support behind this year’s inaugural Virgin Money Cyclone and is urging people to get on their bikes.

The UK’s biggest cycling festival takes place over four days from June 28 until July 1. This year sees Virgin Money take over as headline sponsor of the event after it acquired Northern Rock in January.

It includes the hugely popular Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge rides through the Northumberland countryside on the Saturday – with a choice of 33, 63 and 104-mile routes – and the Beaumont Trophy Premier Calendar race featuring professional riders on the Sunday, which starts and finishes in Stamfordham.

A new addition to the Sunday programme for this year is the Curlew Cup. Following the success of the Women’s National Road Race Championships as part of the Cyclone festival in 2011, the Curlew Cup will form part of the women’s National Series.

Sir Richard said: “When Virgin Money bought Northern Rock I felt it was important that we retained its links to the community. Our continuing support for the UK’s biggest festival of cycling is a great example of that commitment.

“The event itself is fantastic as it caters for cyclists of all abilities, from professionals to families, young and old.

“When I have been in Newcastle I have seen just how passionate the people are about their football, and they are no different when it comes to supporting and taking part in other sporting events on their doorstep.

“Such is the appeal of the Virgin Money Cyclone that it attracts people from all over the world and grows year on year. I believe that 2012 can be the biggest and best yet.”

For the first time the cycling will begin on a Thursday evening with a ride specifically aimed at families and less experienced cyclists on the Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside. It offers the choice of two rides, nine-and-a-half or 14-and-a-half miles, which take in the six bridges that span the River Tyne.

As in previous years, the weekend will also include the Leazes Criteriums, a series of races around Newcastle’s Leazes Park on Friday evening.

For more information about the event and to enter, visit www.virginmoneycyclone.co.uk