Sunderland Big Bike Ride is huge success

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IN the shadow of Penshaw Monument, keen cyclists of all ages got on their bikes for the Sunderland Big Bike Ride.

Hundreds of people used pedal power to take on the five, 20 and 40-mile races starting and finishing at Herrington Country Park yesterday.

Despite overcast weather, blustery conditions and dark clouds looming, the spirit of the riders wasn’t dampened, even when the odd drop of rain came down.

 Many said that the race is something they have been longing to see on Wearside for some time.

 It is now hoped that the event will become a popular fixture on the city’s summer sporting calendar.

And it got a big thumbs up from those donning their helmets to take part.

 Parents Rob and Justine Shepherd and their children Hannah, eight, and John, seven, took part in the five-mile family ride.

The family, from Rickleton, Washington, said it was something they’d be looking forward to doing.

Rob, 39, said: “I wanted to do the longer ride, but the family said I wasn’t allowed so we’re doing it together.

Rob added that the setting of Herrington Country Park, is, in his opinion a great attraction for cyclists.

“If you look at it the park is fantastic, so to come here is great,” he said.

Claire Francis, from Newbottle, said the lack of sunshine hadn’t dampened here spirits for the event.

“It doesn’t matter about the weather not being good as long as it doesn’t rain,” said the 37-year-old, from Newbottle.

“It’s a brilliant event and has been really well organised.”

Peter Close, of Newbottle, took on the family ride along with son Ryan, seven.

Peter, 42, said: “It’s a good idea to hold one of these. I’ve been cycling the last couple of weeks myself.

Peter added that the overcast conditions hadn’t dampened the family’s enthusiasm for the Big Bike Ride, with his wife Joanne, 40, and daughter Emma, four, also turning up to watch.

“Ryan would have done it even if it was teeming down.

“If there were more family events on like this we would definitely do them.”

Joanne said: “I think it’s better spending money on things like this.

“It’s got us all out and about today.”

Cycling pals Andrew Sill, 16, of Chester-le-Street, and Richard Green, 16, of Rickleton, took on the 40-mile Tour de Sunderland.

The longest route of the Big Bike Ride took in some of the city’s finest views and landmarks such as Sunderland Marina and the Wearmouth Bridge.

“I usually do the Durham Big Ride so I’m used to things like this,” said Richard.

Neil and Val Tovey, of South Shields, had come with 14-year-old daughter Katherine to saddle up for the ride.

The trio decided to take on the challenge of the 20-mile River Ride.

Neil, 50, said: “We get out cycling about once a week, but we don’t usually do something as long as this.

“It’s fantastic to find routes because you get bored of them.”

Val, 55, said she was raising money for the British Red Cross by taking part in the event.

Adam Walters, seven, and his grandad Mike Loome, both from Washington, said they had been practising for the challenge.

Mike, 60, said: “I think it’s an excellent event for Sunderland to have because it covers the whole spectrum. If only it was warmer!”