As a keen cyclist since he was able to ride a trike, Virgin Money savings customer Charlie Kitson, 50, was thrilled when the bank took over the sponsorship of the UK’s biggest cycling festival.
The newly-named Virgin Money Cyclone, held in the North East of England, takes in some of the country’s most beautiful countryside in a weekend which offers something for everyone. The event takes place between 28 June and 1 July 2012.
Read on to see why Charlie, a software developer from Northumberland but based in Milton Keynes, takes part, and how you can get involved.
“I’m a member of my local cycling club and had heard about a new local sportive that was taking place in the summer of 2007. Being local, I decided to take part. I always like to support local activities. I’ve now taken part in every single Cyclone Challenge ride since then. It is a fantastic event.”
The Virgin Money Cyclone festival takes place over four days for the first time this year, and will see around 4,500 participants descend on the North East. It starts on Thursday evening with the Tyne Six Bridges Leisure Ride. New to the festival, this relaxed family event is aimed at less experienced riders. There is a choice of 9.5 or 14.5 mile courses devised by Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity. These take riders along the north and south banks of the River Tyne, passing six of its iconic bridges.
Friday evening’s Leazes Criteriums is a series of sprint events – a draw for hundreds of spectators. It starts with two youth races – U10/12 and U14/16. The supporting senior event is for regular racers who are not full time riders, and entrants must hold either a second, third or fourth category British Cycling licence. And the one-hour finale is a race for the best riders in the country, including medal winners such as world and Olympic champions.
Sunday sees The Beaumont Trophy Premier Calendar race, featuring professional riders. And a new addition to the Sunday programme for this year is the Curlew Cup. Following the success of the Women’s National Road Race Championships as part of last year’s Cyclone festival, the Curlew Cup will form part the women’s National Series.
But it is Saturday’s Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge Rides that make their way onto Charlie’s calendar year after year. There are three routes of differing distance and difficulty to choose from, all starting and ending at the home of Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club.
More than £500,000 has been raised for charity through Cyclone events. Virgin Money Giving is now the official not-for-profit sponsorship website for the Virgin Money Cyclone, offering fundraising support to Cyclone Challenge riders who raise money for charity. Virgin Money Giving also collects Gift Aid for free, so charities could receive £12.15 in total for every £10 in sponsorship received.* (*Based on donations made by Visa Debit card with Gift Aid reclaimed)
As Charlie was already a competent cyclist, he started with the 63-mile challenge: “Cycling has been something I’ve done since the 1970s. So for me, the Virgin Money Cyclone has been a wonderful addition to the sporting calendar – like an equivalent to the Great North Run.
“The 33-mile ride is flatter than the 63-mile, and I wanted to challenge myself. I teamed up with another guy and we helped each other through. It added a nice bit of company to the day. Cyclists are a friendly bunch!”