News – Inside the Virgin Money Cyclone Event


From a hugely popular inaugural event back in 2007, the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling keeps growing

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News – Inside the Virgin Money Cyclone Event


From a hugely popular inaugural event back in 2007, the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling has gained a reputation as one of the UK’s most respected and established cycling events.

Cyclone founder and organiser, Peter Harrison talks to VeloUK about the shifting sportive landscape and why the festival continues to draw a crowd: Britain has always embraced cycling, but milestones like the London Olympics 2012 and last year’s Yorkshire Grand Départ have bolstered the sport as both a recreation and serious pursuit for many. New types of sportives spring up every year and there has been an absolute explosion of the format, which some would say is at saturation. The commercialisation of cyclo-sportives is encouraging and frustrating in equal measure – how do grassroots events stay relevant?


Dean Downing winning at Beaumont

The Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling was the first event ever to hold National Elite races for men and women on the same day. Nine years on, it’s the only gathering of its kind that sees a UCI ranked event, the Beaumont Trophy, and a Women’s National Series road race, the Curlew Cup, in the same programme as non-competitive rides, designed purely for fun and fitness. It’s one of the perks of running an independent event that we can continue to push for equality with the format and way we choose to organise the programme.

For families and those just starting out, the traffic-free Tyne Six Bridges trails 10.5 and 15.5 miles across the city’s waterways as a stepping-stone to those longer stints in the saddle. Challenges can be both big and small, so calling our sportives ‘Challenge rides’ is part of the story behind creating an event and culture for cycling that is genuinely accessible to everyone. Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge rides take in scenic Newcastle and the ‘secret county’ of Northumberland, with options for 34, 64 and 106 miles to allow riders of all levels to take part.


The best events encourage people on their cycling journey; putting Challenge riders on some of the same stretch as elite riders in the Curlew Cup and Beaumont Trophy is incredibly inspiring and we’re privileged to do just that.

Safety is another feature of the Virgin Money Cyclone. We’ve had safety credentials to rival much bigger events from the outset. Each year routes are finessed to ensure a safe event, as well as to give riders the best experience possible. As a festival, there’s an emphasis on celebration too that really is unique to this particular collection of rides and the different community events that make the festival weekend what it is.

The festival attracts a huge level of community involvement and support. Feed stations are manned by local volunteers and small businesses in the region benefit directly from the influx of visitors that come to ride and spectate each year. The Cyclone has been a catalyst for better infrastructure in the North East, successfully lobbying for improvements like road resurfacing of benefit to both the ride and the region.


A highlight of the event, Bradley Wiggins winning the British champs on the course

About 30% of people who sign up to ride the Virgin Money Cyclone use their participation to raise money for a good cause. Making the event accessible to charities and fundraisers has always been a priority, but with partners like Virgin Money Giving it’s certainly gained prominence as a reason to ride in recent years.

Others have the Challenge on their calendar year in, year out. It’s a good marker for a cyclist to say that they’ve done it for several years and to meet people who’ve done the same. Cycling can be solitary or social, but often it’s about sharing the experience and the Cyclone proves that time and again.

Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling – over the years:
— 2007 – almost 1000 people ride the first ever Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling Challenge rides, with many more elite riders from the UK and overseas
— 2009 – Virgin Money Cyclone makes the first switch from standalone feed stations to stops hosted by village halls, engaging local communities and businesses in Wark. Elsdon follows in
— 2010, with the Cambo village stop added in 2014
— 2011 – hosts men’s and women’s British National Road Race Championships

— 2012 – Virgin Money Cyclone adds National Series Women’s Road Race, the Curlew Cup, to become the first festival to run two National Series events on a single day
— 2013 – new timing system tracks riders between timing stations as well as from start to finish for a safer rider
— 2014 – Beaumont Trophy awarded UCI status, putting the race firmly on the international stage
— 2015 – return to the three-day festival format including Rollapaluza standing bike event

The Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling returns to Newcastle and Northumberland June 19 – 21. For full event information and to register yourself or a team, visit

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