AN elderly couple are considering leaving home on the day thousands of cyclists descend on rural County Durham.

More than 2,000 cyclists will take part in the Etape Pennines, which follows an arduous 60-mile course through Teesdale and Weardale, starting and finishing in Barnard Castle.

However, a series of road closures throughout the day will cause major disruption to anyone living in the area, including Alan Thompson and his seriously ill wife Margaret.

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Mrs Thompson suffered a major stroke three years ago and is also undergoing treatment for a blood platelet problem.

If her condition deteriorates, Mr Thompson has been told by doctors to take his wife straight to hospital.

During last year’s Etape Pennines, the couple, from Middleton-in-Teesdale, booked into a Teesside hotel to ensure they would not be affected by road closures in the event of an emergency.

Mr Thompson said he was unsure what they would do when this year’s event takes place on Sunday, July 20.

“It may well be we go back to the Premier Inn, or we could stay with my daughters in Eaglescliffe or Marske,” he said.

While organisers IMG Challenger World, backed by Durham County Council, say the event brings huge benefits to the area, Mr Thompson said he and fellow residents think otherwise.

“They have moved the event from October to the first weekend of the summer holidays when many places will have summer bookings already in place,” said Mr Thompson.

“A lot of people also travel through this way as they head north to Scotland or across to the Lakes. They are not going to know about these road closures.”

Mr Thompson said the change of date meant the Etape Pennines clashed with other cycling events in Cumbria, Tyneside and York.

Nigel Dodds, culture and sport strategic manager at Durham County Council, said: “The Etape Pennines event brings many visitors to the area and is an opportunity to showcase the Durham dales as a cycling destination.

“The road closures will inevitably have an impact on local people and we will continue to work closely with residents and event organisers IMG Challenger World to minimise any disruption.”

A spokesman for IMG Challenger World said the event had been brought forward to July to take advantage of better weather.

“The operations team look into what other events are going on. It is impossible not to clash at this time of year.”

Full details of road closures are available at