A CHIEF Constable is getting on his bike to show his support for a mass participation cycling event later this year.

The Beast, an arduous 50-mile ride over undulating roads through north and west Durham, is back on this year after a late cancellation of the initial event, last September.

Problems guaranteeing insurance cover led to the eleventh hour decision to call off The Beast I, although 50 of the original 250-strong entry still took part in an unofficial ride over the same route on the scheduled day.

But after last year’s hiccup, organisers have everything in hand, including full police backing, to ensure insurance is not a problem for The Beast II.

It forms part of the fourth Durham Big Ride, featuring three shorter events, now a festival of cycling split over two weekends.

Such is the level of police support that Durham’s most senior officer has agreed to take part in this year’s Beast.

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, a keen cyclist, has agreed to tackle The Beast, although he concedes it looks like living up to its name.

"I’ve done the Big Ride before and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m really pleased we have managed to work together with the county and the Big Ride people to enable The Beast to go ahead this year.

"It looks like a good, really challenging course.

"I would normally hope to complete a 50-mile ride in three hours, but given the hilly course, then I would estimate it could be nearer to four."

As a gesture to mark the Chief Constable’s participation he was presented with the first entry number today by Colin Wilks, of the Durham Big Ride Ltd.

The Beast, on Sunday September 5, will start and finish from Sniperley Park and Ride site, on the outskirts of Durham, with riders escorted out of the city by police outriders and with a rolling road closure programme in place for the early part of the course.

It heads to Sacriston and takes in Burnhope, Iveston, West Butsfield, Inkerman, Tow Law, Hedley Hill , Cornsay and Wilks Hill, before returning to Sniperley.

The other events in the Durham Big Ride, over 25, 12 and 1.5-mile courses, take place in the Aykley Heads estate, in Durham, the following Sunday, September 12.

Organisers hope entries will exceed 1,700.

* Further information is available via the website www.durhambigride.co.uk, or by ringing the entry line, on (07775) 572335.