THIS August Bank Holiday sees the return of Weardale’s very own cycling sportive, the newly rebranded ‘Winking Sheep 2017’

What is it and how did it come about?

The sportive is now in its third year, and began as a replacement event for the disbanded Etape Pennines in 2015.

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In 2015 and 2016 the event ran as the Roof of England Sportive.

The idea came about when local cafe owner Cameron Gordon, of Chatterbox Cafe in St John’s Chapel, saw an opportunity to promote the area, already popular with cyclists, to the wider cycling community whilst also promoting local tourism generally and raising money for charity and local village hall funds.

He brought together a group of local volunteer cyclists and community minded people to create an event that would run in harmony with the local community, and encourage all the local villages the 90-mile route to get involved to promote their area.

Who benefits from the event?

Over the past two years the event has raised money, not only for the local Teesdale and Weardale Search & Mountain Rescue Team and Great North Air Ambulance, but also given money to Garrigill Village Hall, Teesdale Working Men’s Club and Blanchland Sports Hall as well as St John’s Chapel Town Hall which serves as the event centre on the day.

What's new for 2017?

This year the event has been rebranded as the Winking Sheep Sportive and a new 75-mile route has been added.

The event consists of three different length routes to attract all ages and abilities.

A 55-mile route, ‘The Lamb’ - 4,720ft elevation - taking riders from St John’s Chapel up dale and over Killhope to Garrigill where they have their first of three feed stations in the Village Hall, then onwards via upper Teesdale to Middleton where feed station number two is located at the Working Men’s club.

Riders then continue on over to Stanhope where they split away from the 90-mile course and head back up dale to Chapel.

Riders on the mid-length 75-mile route, ‘The Shearling’ - 6,970ft elevation - continue from Stanhope to ride up over Crawleyside and round to Blanchland for the last of the feed stops in the Sports Hall, before heading over to Rookhope, down to Westgate and back up to Chapel.

For those fit individuals who fancy the challenge of the full 90-mile ‘Winking Sheep’ (- 8,873ft elevation - they will have to take on the mighty Peat Hill up and over back to Rookhope where they will climb their last hill to Allenheads before the descent back down to Chapel and a warm welcome from the ladies of the Barrington Bites, providing food, hot drinks and cakes.

What else should we know?

The route is fully signed and marshalled, and the team are always on the lookout for helpful volunteers to help with marshalling or assisting with the organisation of the event. If readers feel that they can help with the event in any way then please contact the team on 07544221650.

How do we sign up?

Details of how to enter the event can be found on the British Cycling website - www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/157396/The-Winking-Sheep-Sportive - and more information can be found on both the event website, www.winkingsheepsportive.org.uk and the event Facebook page ‘The Winking Sheep Sportive’.

  • The team would like to acknowledge support from Chatterbox Cafe, currently leased by Christopher Johnson, Darren Marsh of OTW Imaging, who provides route signage, Dave Raeside, of North Pennine Cycles in Nenthead, Dan Small, of Mountain Goat Coaching based in Wolsingham, Andy Cosgrove, of British Cycling, and Teesdale and Weardale Search & Mountain Rescue Team.