Celebrations as the 2015 Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling opens on River Tyne

Hundreds of people have gathered at Newcastle’s Quayside to mark the start of one of the UK’s most respected and established cycling events, the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling.

Over 300 riders took off in the Virgin Money Cyclone’s opening event, the Tyne Six Bridges, today (19/6), with many more enjoying the waterfront festival atmosphere as part of a three-day cycling celebration. Award-winning freestyle mountain bike stunt team, Savage Skills, kept the heat on as participants filled the starting line, with nail-biting live displays to inspire the crowd.

The Virgin Money Cyclone also hosted its first-ever Rollapaluza standing races, with riders battling it out on mounted bikes to the fastest 500m sprint. Riders returned from the 10.5 and 15.5 mile jaunts to a barbecue feast dished up by local trader Kielder Organic Meat, with families and friends finishing the day at the Cycle Hub’s café to watch the sun set over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

Lee Wilkinson, from Cramlington, has ridden the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge three times before, but it is the first year he and daughter Megan, aged six, have taken the Tyne Six Bridges ride. “The first time I rode the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge was for charity actually,” he said. “This year I’m riding the 106 mile Challenge with friends. It’s gotten bigger each year and we love being part of something local like this."

Cyclists of all ages and abilities took the opportunity to register early for their non-competitive Challenge rides, which depart the Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, Kingston Park, tomorrow morning (20/6). Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge rides trace the path of professional cyclists ahead of Sunday’s competitive races, Women’s National Series Road Race, the Curlew Cup, and men’s UCI Europe Tour event, the Beaumont Trophy.

The 2015 edition of the Beaumont Trophy sees the Virgin Money Cyclone play host to the strongest field of riders to compete for the title since the Men’s National Road Race Championships toured the North East in 2011.

Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling Founder and Event Organiser, Peter Harrison, said: “The Beaumont Trophy has become a truly international race, with teams from Belgium (3M), Germany (Bike Aid) and the Czech Republic (Sparta Praha), along with Great Britain’s under 23s (Team Ulster) joining all six British Continental teams on Sunday.

“The British teams include Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallists, World Champions, as well as quite a few of our National Champions. With so many world-class athletes putting on their best for the region, we’d love to see people out cheering on their favourite riders and enjoying the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling spirit.”

Teams include England test cricketer Matt Prior’s ONE Pro Cycling and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ own Team WIGGINS. The Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling continues in Newcastle and Northumberland until Sunday June 21. For full event information and to plan your festival weekend, visit www.virginmoneycyclone.co.uk