THOUSANDS of people packed Durham's narrow streets to catch a piece of the action as high-speed cycling returned to the North-East tonight (Tuesday, May 27).

Eleven teams of cyclists threw themselves round Durham’s cobbled corners at speeds of up to 50kph in the fifth round of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series.

Durham’s 1.4km circuit, hosting a race for the fifth consecutive year, is widely considered to be the toughest of the whole contest, with riders describing it as “purgatory”.

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Jon Mould, of NFTO Pro Cycling, was the big winner on the night, winning the individual race and the sprint contest, while also retaining his lead in the series sprint competition.

Team Raleigh won the team prize, but Rapha Condor JLT still lead the series overall having triumphed in three of the previous five stages.

Organisers in Durham breathed a sigh of relief as the forecast showers were reduced to drizzle for the 75-minute spectacle, allowing the cyclists to push themselves to the limit as they raced down the sharp Crossgate before taking a heart-stopping right hand bend and tackling the tough cobbled uphill of South Street, gasping for air as they hit the sprint finish along Grove Street.

Many spectators lined the route to cheer on the competitors, enjoying pre-race entertainment from the Meze Mundo street band and a podium presentation after the chequered flag fell.

Simon Henig, leader of hosts Durham County Council, said: “It’s the fifth year we’ve had the tour series here in Durham and it’s always a great event.

“It brings people out onto the streets and it encourages people to get cycling. Cycling is increasing with the Etape Pennines and Tour de France coming up in Yorkshire.

“We have a good range of sports in County Durham now and it’s important to have a regular programme. It’s good for the economy.”

The ten-stage series now heads to Edinburgh on Thursday (May 29), before moving on to Redditch, Canary Wharf and Woking before the final stage in Jersey on Friday, June 13.

Highlights of tonight’s Durham race will be shown on ITV4 at 9pm tomorrow (Wednesday, May 28) and repeated at 6.55am the following morning.

For full details on the tour, visit tourseries.co.uk