MORE than 200 leading top professional cyclists are preparing to descend on a former steel town to race as the highlight of a huge and historic street party.

The party is being organised to celebrate the revival of Consett from the loss of its steelworks in 1980 - a blow from which many said it would never recover.

Exactly 25 years after the formation of Project Genesis Trust - charged with reviving Consett’s fortunes - trustees say it is time to party.

On Sunday, June 23, the town centre will be turned over to a free festival which will include special shows, displays, races, fun events, and a food market.

The highlight of the day will be the Tour of the Reservoir, a long-established pro-cycle race which, for the first time, will start and finish in the town centre.

Project Genesis Trust chair John O’Connor, said: “Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the closure of our steelworks, and while it was devastating, it didn’t prove fatal.

"What this town will do in June is give itself a pat on the back and have a party. The town, and the fantastic people here, deserve it and we’re delighted this prestigious bike race will be part of it.

"We want to leave a legacy, so that Consett can stage this event every year."

Trustee David Gray said: "The Tour of the Reservoir has been going for about about 38 years and has alway been around Edmundbyers and has been quite esoteric, with mainly racers and their families turning out.

"We have been in discussion with the organiser Mike Hodgson, who asked if we would like to contribute to the running costs. We agreed, but said we wanted to bring the race to the people."

Mr Gray added: "We have we combined it with a the party in the park party normally held in Blackhill Park every year, which we will be bringing up to Middle Street in the town centre."

Trust development director Trustee Mike Clarke said: "The good thing from a Consett point of view is that the race is British Cycling accredited so we end up with a full day's worth of TV coverage. This will give Consett a positive profile rather than everyone just talking about the closure of Consett Steelworks.

The party starts with the women’s event, setting off at 9am, circling through the town, and then heading off into the countryside, before returning for the finish 71 miles later, back in the town centre. Among those taking part will be world and European champion, Katie Archibald. and multiple gold medal winner, Dame Sarah Storey.

The men’s race, over 110 miles on a similar course, is flagged off at 1.30pm.

Race organiser Mike Hodgson said, “We were delighted to be asked to join the party, and if you’ve never seen a pro-cycle race before, you’re in for a treat.”