FORGET the Tour de France, it’s the Tour de Tyne and Wear that has captured the imaginations of city pupils.
The event, which is split into four stages, started yesterday morning with the aim of crossing the final finishing line at lunchtime today.
The ride was organised by Sustrans, a charity which helps people to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper ways to travel, as it marks a year of cycling achievements.
Pupils at schools across the area are taking part in the ride, carrying mascot Billy the Bear as they go and passing it on to the next group of children as they each take on a section of the ride.
Le Grand Tour Depart, the first section, was completed by Lambton Primary in Washington.
Sunderland Mayor Coun Stuart Porthouse saw the group off as the team headed along the C2C cycleway to the National Glass Centre.
At the centre they handed the mascot on to Seaburn Dene Primary, which then set off for Souter Lighthouse. Today, Marsden and Harton primaries will push off for the next stage to Tynemouth, where schools in North Tyneside and Newcastle will complete the route by Thursday at the Tyne Rowing Club, in Gateshead.
Mark O’Keeffe, one of Sustrans’ school officers for Sunderland, said: “The tour is a great way to mark the progress pupils at our schools are making. By bringing them together to celebrate their achievements to date, while creating links with other schools, as Billy the biking bear gets passed from one group of enthusiastic riders to the next. The tour also gave us the chance to take pupils and parents a little bit further afield along fantastic parts of the National Cycle Network, that they may not have used.”