Feature: Tour of the Reservoir


A climbers race for the first Premier in 2013 as the Tour of Reservoir expands to two days on tough roads around Blanchland in Northumberland

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During a year when there are only six Premier Calendar events, and there is apparently no money forthcoming from the huge cash reserves at British Cycling for organisers of such races, the Tour of Reservoir has bucked the trend of cutting back and expanded from a single day race to one over two days thanks to ‘Mike’s Bank’.

Tour of the Reservoir - Larry Hickmott

Scott Thwaites of Endura Racing winning the Tour of the Reservoir last year. Unless British Cycling shows some passion for the sport and enables organisers to have riders like Scott to ride the race, the event will be deprived of having ProConti/WorldTour level UCI riders in the race and others.

Held on the weekend of the 27/28th of April and the first Premier Calendar event of the year, organiser Mike Hodgson explained to VeloUK how the idea to expand to two days has been around a while and is not related to the loss of the only multiday Premier Calendar event, the Girvan.

The Tour of the Reservoir is based in Northumberland (North East England) and starts in the very pretty and historic village of Blanchland not far from the reservoir from which the race gets its name. Last year, standing around chatting to team managers and so on, the thought of going to a two day was discussed. Mike explained how there had been a two day on the same course over 15 years ago and decided it was worth giving the new format a try at Premier Calendar level.

Various options were discussed such as having two one day races like the Tour of Majorca where teams could change team line ups etc but that wasn’t permitted under Premier Calendar regulations unless they were completely separate one day races (two Prems not one) so the format of being a two day two stage ‘Tour’ event was born.


Dean Windsor of Endura Racing on the attack after the five man break was brought back in last years race.

Thoughts of a time trial and road stage on day one were discussed but the volunteer overheads of such a day were thought to be too heavy for this year and so two road stages it is for 2013. Mike then explained how the roads, once used by the Milk Race when it came over from Darlington, were known to be tough and he explained how one well known hard man, the one and only Wayne Randle, could only use four letter words to describe how tough the stage was going to be at a recent dinner with Mike.

The event used to be held in March and was then moved to June before last year, it was held in May. In 2013, there is another change of date to one in April as the race comes forward a week when they hope the weather will be kind to the course which until today, was covered in deep snow. Not for nothing does the course have snow depth gauges six feet high by the side of the road.

Asked which day will be the hardest, Mike is in no doubt that stage 1 is by the far the toughest and will see a selection made from which the overall winner will come. On stage 1, the course is based around a 15 mile circuit near Blanchland and Edmondbyers and sees the riders racing over 75 hilly miles.

“It will be a climber who wins” Mike said. “The one day version (the riders race that course on day 2) had nothing steep hill wise but after five laps was still hard” he explained. “But, Saturday is very very hard and climbing from the word go”.

The riders are shown a little mercy from racing up the hills with a three mile neutralised section up the climbs on the first lap but after that, the racing will see them climbing from Blanchland up short steep climbs and then over the long exposed slopes of Horseshoe Hill.


The very pretty village of Blanchland will host the race again.

Checking the course out using Google Streetview, the route along the single lane road with cattle grids is not just exposed but also gives the riders plenty of opportunity to see any breaks up the road before they make a sharp left over to Edmondbyers (B6278) on a wider not so hilly road. The race then takes a shortcut at Edmondbyers (Church lane) to head back to Blanchland and the climbing all over again.

Mike says there is about 1,500 feet of climb on Horseshoe Hill and to spice it up even more, there will be primes on laps 2/3/4. The steepest section says Mike is on the horseshoe bend and it will feel like hitting a wall he explained. The road offers other challenges for what could be a field of 130 riders including a new tarmac section where the drop down to the gravel is substantial or at least is in the Streetview footage.

This will be the eighth year the event has been a Premier Calendar race and it’s a costly affair. Mike explained how they tried closed roads for the race but that proved to be too dangerous as members of the public still got on the circuit so now they have 12 police motorbikes, three command vehicles and 12 NEG riders to keep the riders and public safe.

It works says Mike adding that the riders tell him it’s the safest race on the calendar.

That does cost though and out of the budget for the race of £40,000, half that goes to the police. Mike, now in his 70’s, ran a haulage company before retiring and has sponsors to help with that cost including Northumberland Water and Durham County Council Sport & Tourism (via Weardale Action Partnership). The race he says brings in many tens of thousands of pounds to the area and with it being over two days this year, that amount is expected to increase even more in 2013.

Video: the BCpremiercalendar Event Show

In an area where pubs are closing and people are having a hard time, the influx of business is very welcome and shows how bike racing can be good for an area in these tough times.

The race is a far cry from his first when aged 20, he dived in at the deep end and organised a British Road Race Championship over 50 years ago. Mike points out that nowadays the sport is in danger of fizzling out with little help coming from British Cycling despite its millions of pounds of funding and the apparent doubling of its membership.

Mike explained how organising events is a hobby to him, he does it for the love it like the other Premier Calendar organisers who are all the other side of 50. But, he would like to see those in the ivory towers at British Cycling recognise their efforts and show these organisers some respect. “It’s bad bad news it’s come down to six Premiers” Mike explained. “The sport is going down the pan and it’s not a great advert for British Cycling, never mind cycling as a sport.”

It’s also not great either than the world sees the likes of Wiggins winning major Tours and Cavendish the Worlds and Tour stages while the sport on the road withers at home. You get the feeling that as long as British riders are on top in the WorldTour all is okay but that is far from the case.

One can only admire people like Mike and the other organisers who have the passion to tackle the challenge of organising races in these tough times. And it got harder this year for the Premier Calendar organisers as Mike then pointed out how unlike last year when Skoda via BC provided cars for the Premiers but this year they would have no such cars for the officials as the Skoda deal had apparently stopped and the organisers would have to go back to their suppliers and ask for some vehicles to use during the race.

That would not be so bad provided organisers had some sweetners for the sponsors but with no TV last year, the job of convincing sponsors was a hard sell. Telling his sponsors the race was on YouTube did not impress them much unsurprisingly!

In 2013, coverage on EuroSport has been mentioned apparently but not confirmed and we can only hope that whilst that is not as good as the coverage that Sweetspot gets for its races on ITV4, any TV coverage is a good thing for attracting money into the sport so essential for it to survive.


The organiser explained how he has in the past had 200 entries for the race but would like the big teams to get in earlier

Whatever happens with the Eurosport deal, Mike will though get some TV thanks to the BBC in two of the areas that the race falls within but even that has had to be paid for by him as he gets a private contractor in to produce the TV content for the BBC. This race organising lark certainly seems like a costly hobby to have at least at Premier Calendar level!

As for riders and teams, so far, Mike only has one of the major teams entered, Raleigh, and is hoping the other big teams help him out by getting their entries in quickly. He’s also hoping that British Cycling do something to make their races more attractive to TV by getting riders from the WorldTour teams to ride these ‘flagship’ road races.

Whilst the likes of Russell Downing and Ben Swift etc are not allowed to because of silly UCI regs that BC enforce, there are apparently work arounds as the Aussies fully exploited for their races and Mike would like to see them do the same here in Britain.Its as much a fight within BC as it is outside the organisation I understand.

Whether we see British Cycling bothering to do that for the organisers remains to be seen. I know there are elements in BC that would love to see that happen but just as many who can’t be bothered as they put their energies into other areas well away from road racing.

If there is one thing that is very evident talking to organisers like Mike is that the love and the passion they have to put on such costly events, using their own money and own time is in complete contrast to the apathy shown by those being paid well to supposedly run the sport in this country with millions coming from the public purse.

So all I can say is thank god for people like Mike Hodgson who may well be a pain in the ass to BC but at least we have him to thank for putting on what is sure to be a fantastic race to kick off the Premier Calendar season in 2013.

What happens when the likes of Mike are no longer able to organise such races is a frightening prospect. Need I remind people that the loss of the Dengie Marshes Premier race is because its organiser Alan Rosner sadly died last year and no-one was there to step into his place.

I saw a very small part of the passion Alan showed in making the event happen when very very early on the morning of the race, while the day dawned, he was out alone putting the signs up. Are there others willing to take his place… only time will answer that question.

The sport needs people like Mike (and Alan et al) who enjoy the challenge of putting on a major event, doing good for the area they love as well as their sport. Because one thing is for sure, when the races are all gone, it won’t be BC getting off its backside to organise them like they do other events such as World Cups etc. Road Racing for them does seem to be expendable and in 15 years of following the sport, have yet to see otherwise from them.

Thanks to Mike for his time and I look forward to being up there to report on the race again in 2013…

Tour of the Reservoir 2013 (Premier Calendar)
April 27th: Stage 1 120km/75miles
April 28 : Stage 2 165km / 104miles

Enter Here

 2012 Race Report and Photos

2013 Major Event (Road Race) Calendar

2013 British Teams (Mens and Women)


Year Winner Second Third
2012 Scott Thwaites Peter Hawkins Russell Downing
2011 Ian Bibby Marcin Bialoblocki Dean Downing
2010 Simon Richardson Ian Wilkinson  Niklas Gustavsson
2009 Andrew Tennant Russell Downing Robert Partridge
2008 Russell Downing Kristian House Simon Richardson
2007 Dean Downing Gordon McCauley Robin Sharman
2006 Ben Greenwood  Kristian House Matthew Stephens


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