The organiser of the Northern Rock Cyclone cycling festival has today announced that the 2012 event will feature a new elite level women's road race.
Above: Elite rider Annie Simpson; "I can't wait to see the elite women's Curlew Cup race start."
Called the Curlew Cup, the new race is sponsored by Northumberland National Park and will run alongside the North East's long established Beaumont Trophy men's elite race. It will be part of a strong eight-round National Women's Road Series of races.
The Curlew Cup follows on from the success of the men's and women's National Championships races, which formed part of the Northern Rock Cyclone weekend in 2011 and brought household names like Bradley Wiggins and Lizzie Armitstead plus thousands of cycling fans to Northumberland.
Commenting on the news event organiser Peter Harrison said: "The Curlew Cup has been inspired by the enthusiasm for and success of the women's National Championship race in 2011. I'd like to say a big thank you to Northumberland National Park for helping to make it a reality."
Duncan Wise from Northumberland National Park said: "Northumberland is a stunning place to ride a bike and the Northern Rock Cyclone shows it at its best. To be able to support the weekend and bring a new women's elite race to the area is fantastic for us."
Already the news has proved popular with riders. North East rider and Horizon Fitness RT member Annie Simpson is expecting to take part in the race. She said: "I can't wait to see the elite women's Curlew Cup race start up in the North East alongside the long-established Beaumont Trophy. Women's racing is really coming of age, and I'd urge other race organisers to follow the Northern Rock Cyclone lead."
The Curlew Cup is part of the Northern Rock Cyclone weekend, which will run from Thursday 28 June to Sunday 1 July 2012. It is one of the UK's biggest weekends of cycling and is set to attract even more people in 2012 as it continues to expand. As well as the Curlew Cup, for 2012 there is also a new Tyne Six Bridges ride aimed at beginners and families to kick off the weekend on Thursday 28 July.
In addition, the weekend will also include the traditional Leazes Crtiterium races on the Friday night, which in 2011 attracted amateurs and pros alike and featured ad-hoc commentary from star rider Mark Cavendish. On Saturday 30 June more than 4,000 riders are expected to sign up for the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge 33, 67 and 107 mile rides around Northumberland's beautiful countryside. The weekend will finish off in style with the Curlew Cup and Beaumont Trophy women's and men's elite races taking place on Sunday 1 July.
Entries for the weekend will open at the beginning of November. To keep up to date with all the latest news sign up for exclusive updates at www.northernrockcyclone.co.uk to be in with a chance of winning free entry into the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge rides. You can also follow the event on Twitter @NRCyclone and on Facebook.