ELITE cyclists are preparing to return to the ancient cobbled streets of Durham City for one of the toughest courses in a national tour series.

Eight teams of professional cyclists, and guest teams, will take part in the fifth stage of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series race on Tuesday (May 27).

The race, hosted by Durham County Council in partnership with race organiser Sweetspot, starts at 7pm with pre-race action, including live music by the Meze Mundo street band, beginning at about 4.30pm.

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Nigel Dodds, the council’s strategic manager for culture and sport, said: “We’re very excited about the tour returning to Durham and are delighted to play a part in encouraging the next generation of cycling in the North-East.

“Seeing world-class athletes pitting themselves and their state-of-the-art bikes against the ancient cobbled streets of Durham City is a really unique experience and we hope that people turn out in force to enjoy this free event.”

The Durham stage is seen as the hardest for the professional riders, due to its steep climbs, narrow streets and tight turns - leading it to be described as “purgatory”.

Two of the hottest prospects in North-East cycling will have ringside seats.

Rhianna Stoves, 15, of Hexham and 16-year-old Matthew Worton, of Stockton, have been invited to attend the event as special VIP guests.

Rhianna, of Derwentside Cycling Club, won the North East Cyclo-Cross and the mountain bike under 16’s leagues this year and finished second in the mountain bike nationals at Cathkin Brae in Scotland.

Matthew competes in cyclo-cross junior races for the Blackhawk Bikes team in Stockton and was recently picked for the Great Britain cycling team that contested a Cyclo-Cross World Cup race in Belgium.

Among the teams taking part on Tuesday will be last Team Raleigh – last year’s winners - Madison Genesis; Metaltek Cycling; NFTO Pro Cycling; Pedal Heaven Colbornes RT; Rapha Condor JLT; Starley Primal Pro Cycling and Velosure Node4.

There are also three guest teams – Haribo Beacon, Achieve Skinnergate Racing and Wheelbase Altura MGD.

Spectators will get the opportunity to try-on Sir Bradley Wiggins Tour of Britain winning jersey for free, at the Sue Ryder marquee.

*Road closures are: Quarryheads Lane (south) –residents only access between 7am and midday; then the road is closed from midday to midnight; Grove Street, Margery Lane (south) and Quarryheads Lane (north) – closed from 7am to midnight; North Road (east/bottom of Crossgate) –closed from 10am to midnight and Margery Lane (north), Crossgate, South Street, Pimlico –closed from midday to midnight. The A690 Crossgate Peth and Alexandria Crescent will remain open at all times.

Free evening parking will be available at the County Hall car park and at the park and ride sites at Howlands and Sniperley for people wishing to walk into town.

Further information is available at www.tourseries.co.uk or www.thisisdurham.com