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Virgin Money Cyclone Presents Dean Downing's Top Tips for Choosing the Right Sportive

by Nick Gregory

GB Flag

With the last Christmas decorations safely bundled away, thoughts shift to New Year's resolutions and personal challenges for the year ahead - why not make your sportive target the Virgin Money Cyclone in 2015? 

Former pro turned coach and Virgin Money Cyclone Beaumont Trophy winner, Dean Downing gives us his top tips for choosing the right sportive... 

Timing is everything 

Look at your calendar and decide when makes most sense to try a new challenge. Aim for a summer event like the Virgin Money Cyclone for the best chance at fair weather and favourable road conditions. 

Location, location 

Where does the sportive take place? Consider travel arrangements from your home on event day, remembering your bike! If you are aiming at an event further afield, factor in time to visit the local area and recover from your ride. A festival like the Virgin Money Cyclone runs over three days so you can count on a weekend of activity celebrating all things two-wheeled. 

Dean Downing at last year's Cyclosport Industry Event

Mind the pennies 

Go for an event that is affordable to you in all respects. The best sportive will be the one you are happy to attend, so budget for entry cost as well as small extras like a bike service and celebratory toast. You can also ride easy knowing you'll be supporting local businesses with your custom. 

The lay of the land 

If you are unfamiliar with the area a sportive runs through, get closer to the route through the event's website. Virgin Money Cyclone cycle routes can be downloaded direct to your GPS device to help target your training. Check for hill climbs as well as the overall distance to feel confident you are signing up to something you can achieve. 

Get ready 

A steady 34 mile ride like the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge will still warrant a little preparation. Start now with a 15 mile ride twice a week and build this up to 20 miles by early spring; your road confidence will quickly develop, as will strength and stamina. Riders tackling a bigger distance should aim for a structured training plan including rides over 50 miles to get used to those longer journeys. 

Better together 

Talk to family, friends and colleagues about your sportive challenge. People love a good cause so you may find encouragement and a few extra training buddies by using your summer ride to raise funds for charity. 

The Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling returns to Newcastle and Northumberland June 19 - 21. 

Kristian House taking the win in the 2014 Beaumont Trophy 

Friday - Tyne Six Bridges Leisure Ride 

2015 will be the third year this relaxed ride takes place. Aimed at less experienced riders and families, it follows Sustrans Routes 72 and 14 along the north and south banks of the River Tyne, taking in the Gateshead Millennium, Tyne, Swing, High Level, Redheugh and Scotswood bridges. Choose between a 10.5 and 15.5 mile route. 

Saturday - Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge Rides 

A choice of three rides of varying distances and difficulty to test all who compete. Challenge rides start and finish at the Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, Kingston Park, and take in the spectacular backdrop of the Northumbrian countryside. The routes are all on country roads, avoiding the city traffic. Riders set off in groups of 60 at 2 minute intervals. Choose between 34, 64 and 106 mile routes when signing up for the event. 

Sunday - Elite races 

Women's National Series Road Race - The Curlew Cup 
The first event of the day will be a Women's National Series Road Race which will attract some of the best riders in the country including Olympic and World medallists. The race will use the Ingoe Circuit, passing through the villages of Stamfordham and Matfen. Competitors will complete three laps of 13.9 miles each before going on to the 22.3 mile circuit used in the men's race, crossing the finish line in Stamfordham. 

Men's Race - The Beaumont Trophy 
Starting at 1.15pm, the Beaumont Trophy starts with a single lap of the 13.9 mile circuit used in the women's event. Riders then progress to the 22.3 mile circuit used for the 2011 Men's National Road Race Championships, including the climb of the Ryals. This is ridden four times before a final lap of the first, smaller circuit, making a total distance of 117 miles. 

For full event information and to register yourself or a team, visit