June this year will see the fifth annual Northern Rock Cyclone cycling weekend held in Northumberland.
The event, which is sponsored by Northern Rock, is one of the biggest cycling festivals in the UK and takes place over three days, from Friday 24 to Sunday 26.
There is a range of events to suit all abilities across the weekend, which is expected to include a number of cycling's biggest names.
The weekend begins on the Friday evening with the Leazes Criteriums. This is a thrilling set of races around Newcastle's Leazes Park and features amateur and children's races. The night ends with a feature race, which is expected to attract Tour de France and Olympic cycling superstars.
Whether you're a cycling novice or a committed fanatic, the Criterium event is a fantastic opportunity to kick off the weekend sitting back with a drink and some food enjoying the atmosphere. There is also the chance to have a casual meander around the trade village to look at the latest cycling goodies from the likes of Madison, who are one of the supporting partners of the Northern Rock Cyclone weekend.
Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge
Saturday sees the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge take place. This is the biggest mass-bike ride to take place on open roads in the UK and brings thousands of cyclists to the spectacular Northumberland countryside.
This year, up to 5,000 cyclists of all abilities - from families to professional riders - are expected to take on the challenge. There is a choice of three routes, with circuits of 33, 63 and 104 miles. The two longer routes will take in sections of Sunday's National Elite Road Race Championships route, including the calf-sapping Ryals climb.
The Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge makes the most of Northumberland's beautiful countryside and quiet roads and features well-stocked feeding stations, electronic timing, free bike checks at Newcastle's Cycleogical bike shop and a personalised certificate for every rider. All routes on the Northern Rock Cyclone challenge start and finish from the Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club at Kingston Park.
Andy Tate, Customer and Commercial Director at Northern Rock said: "I know from first hand experience the challenge and enjoyment gained from participation in the Northern Rock Cyclone. Northern Rock is proud to be an official sponsor and partner of the event which gives cyclists of all capabilities the chance to enjoy the beautiful Northumberland countryside. It is a fantastic showcase for the north east in general."
National Elite Road Racing Championships
Sunday sees the National Elite Road Race Championships hit the North East for the first time. The Championships attract the top level of men and women cyclists. The races will start and finish in the village of Stamfordham, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne before heading out into the Northumberland countryside.
Thousands of excited cycling fans are expected to line the route to cheer on their favourite riders, including international Olympic medal winners and Tour de France stars.
Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan said: "This looks like a fantastic event, one all the family can get involved in. All credit to Northern Rock for organising such a tremendous day out. I was even thinking of taking part myself!"
Whilst team mate Steven Taylor was quoted as saying: "The 2011 Northern Rock Cyclone is a tremendous event for the region and as well as being competitive and terrific fun, will provide a great fitness and health boost to all the participants.
"We did quite a bit of cycling at our pre season training camp in Ireland and it was really enjoyable, not to mention the change from doing sprints and running all the time!"
Raising money for charity
Riders in previous Northern Rock Cyclone events have raised thousands of pounds for a range of charities and good causes. Participants can raise money for their own favourite charity and the official charity this year is the NSPCC.
An NSPCC spokesman commented: "Get on your bike and help to raise money for children in the North East. Whether you're a competitive cyclist or you just want to set yourself a personal challenge, by taking part in the Northern Rock Cyclone and supporting the NSPCC you will be helping to protect vulnerable children."
Northern Rock Cyclone
Northern Rock Cyclone weekend organiser Peter Harrison said: "The Northern Rock Cyclone has grown into a fantastic event in recent years. Local people love it and it's a great chance to show off our beautiful scenery to cyclists from around the country.
To add the National Elite Road Race Championships to the weekend is a real coup for the North East."
How to enter
Full details, including routes and details of how you can ride in the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge are available at www.northernrockcyclone.co.uk
You can also follow the event on Twitter @nrcyclone or on Facebook.