UP to 15,000 cyclists are expected to take part in a new closed road cycling event in County Durham.

Vélo North will feature two rides of 50 and 100 miles and is set to take place on Sunday, September 1.

Organised by the Vélo Series, it will be the first the company has put on in the North.

Launched by ex-rugby player Martin Johnson in Durham, the former England captain said he was planning to sign up to the 100 mile event.

The Northern Echo:

Vélo North, which will start and finish outside Durham Cathedral, will take place on September 1

Mr Johnson, who started cycling as a way to keep fit after he retired from rugby, said: “For an amateur cyclist doing rides on closed roads with no cars, is nirvana.

“You never really get the opportunity because there are very few events in the UK with closed roads. I’m sure there will be huge demand.”

Mr Johnson, whose mother grew up in Darlington, added: “It’s an area I know a little bit about but it’s somewhere a lot of people won’t know.

“There’s no better way of seeing an area because you can cover a huge distance on a bike.”

Details of the route, and which roads will be closed, have not yet been released but the event will start and finish outside Durham Cathedral and will go through Lanchester, Stanhope, Teesdale and Bishop Auckland.

Alistair Foster, from the Vélo Series, which started in 2017, said: “There’s no pro riders so it’s about taking part, raising money for charity and have a great time and getting involved.

The Northern Echo:

“It’s open to all ages, shapes and sizes. It will attract some keen riders but it’s not how fast you can go.”

The event is being co-hosted by Durham County Council, which has given it funding of £250,000.

Councillor Ossie Johnson, cabinet member for tourism and leisure, said: “Not only are we showcasing the landscape of County Durham, we’ll be able to showcase the friendly people who live here and their hospitality.

“I think the Olympic success we’ve had in cycling in the last few years has inspired the whole population. It’s a great thing because it helps us with our objectives regarding healthy living and controlling obesity.”

Adam Deathe, business engagement manager for Durham’s Business Improvement District (Bid) said: “It’s a fabulous opportunity for the city. Durham puts on these types of events very well and it’s going to bring in so many visitors to the city who can realise what it has to offer.”

The Vélo Series has so far included a Midlands event, while Vélo South event was planned for last year but had to be cancelled because of bad weather.

  • The event is open to enter from Thursday, March 7.