ORGANISERS of a cycling festival in Consett are considering ideas for commemorative event to tie in with the 40th anniversary of the closure of the steelworks.

This year’s event in June built on the popular annual Tour of the Reservoir by extending the race so competitors started and finished in the town centre.

It brought top international cyclists and up to 10,000 visitors, boosting the local economy by more than £1m.

Local people and visitors who came to cheer the 200 professional competitors enjoyed a free street party organised by Project Genesis, which has been helping to revive the area’s fortunes for 25 years.

Chairman John O’Connor said: “The event was a bigger success than we’d ever imagined, and as well as providing a great day out, it provided a real uplift to local businesses.

“With around 1,000 cyclists and supporters packing into the town, and plenty of visitors on the day, our businesses from bed and breakfasts to food outlets and shops all reaped the benefit. Two pubs actually ran out of beer.”

The event also gave international TV viewers a glimpse of the beautiful Derwentside landscape and challenging hill climbs, thanks to backing by British Cycling that ensured Eurosport coverage.

Project Genesis and the Tour of the Reservoir organisers are hoping British Cycling will give their backing to an even bigger event next year.

Mr O’Connor said: “We’ve got all sorts of ideas to extend the festival so it includes everyone including local schools, outlying villages and sports enthusiasts of every level of ability.

“As well as the elite athletes who come to take part in the gruelling tour.

“We feel the area thoroughly deserves this kind of positive attention.

“The steelworks closed on September 12, 1980 and people thought Consett would just dry up and blow away.

“But look at us now.

“Four decades on, our town and the area are absolutely thriving.

“It’s time to put a national and international focus on Derwentside as a beautiful and vibrant place not only to live and work, but to visit and stay, too.”

The trust’s development director Mike Clark said: “Building a festival around it was one of the ways we are celebrating the revival of Consett.

“We now see a fantastic further opportunity in 2020 to show just how far we’ve come since the dark days 40 years ago when the steelworks closed.”