Watch as Sunderland's 80-year-old King of the Mountains looks forward to the Tour of Britain cycling race arriving

Sunderland’s former King of the Mountains, Eddie McGourley, 80, has been leading the way as the city gears up for the arrival of the elite Tour of Britain cycle race.

On Tuesday September 6, the AJ Bell Tour of Britain race will see 100 of the world's best riders tackle a 163.6km stage that begins in Durham and finishes on Wearside.

The gruelling course will take in the North Pennines of Weardale and Teesdale before a sprint finish outside the City Hall.

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The event brings back happy memories for Houghton Cycle Club’s (HCC) President Eddie McGourley, who rode in the 1970 Milk Race – the forerunner for today’s Tour – where he was crowned King of the Mountains during the 14 day race for being the fastest cyclist on the hill sections of the course.

Eddie, who despite entering his ninth decade still cycles up 70 miles a ride, said: “I was 27 at the time and we cycled over 100 miles per day. It was the longest cycle race in the world at the time. It’s absolutely brilliant to see the Tour coming to Sunderland.

"There will be a lot of razzmatazz and it will be a fantastic spectacle as they race through the city.”

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Eddie, who first joined HCC in 1956, hopes the race will inspire other people to get on their bikes.

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Eddie McGourley, 80, with the programme from the 1970 Milk Race where he was crowned King of the Mountains.

He said: “I used to play for Sunderland boys but I got a bad injury at 16. My dad bought me a bike and since then I’ve rode all my life. Hopefully seeing the Tour in Sunderland will rub off on other people who might start cycling.”

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Eddie was joined at the launch event by club team mate Mark Nolan, 54.

Mark said: “We are going to be celebrating our 90th anniversary and hopefully this event will encourage other people to join the club, including more ladies who we are looking to get into cycling.”

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The vast majority of cyclists at the launch event were in their fifties and sixties, testament to the longevity and long-term health benefits of the sport.

Cllr Linda Williams and Sunderland City Council leader Cllr Graeme Miller at the launch event for the AJ Bell Tour of Britain race which will finish in Sunderland on September 6.
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Sunderland Clarion Cycling Club member Trevor Duncan, 65, said: “I played rugby for 20 years and eventually had to stop because of problems with my knees. I now cycle 50 to 60 miles a ride and it’s great for keeping fit.”

Team mate Bill Kirk, 67, added: “I love to get out onto the moors and it’s a great way of keeping fit as you get older. Unlike other sports it’s low impact on your joints.”

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The Tour of Britain will represent the culmination of a summer of sport in Sunderland which also saw the city host the cycling Tour Series and the The British Triathlon Super Series Grand Final.

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Eddie McGourley, 80, still cycles up to 70 miles in one ride.

Part of the Council’s Swim, Bike, Run initiative, Cllr Linda Williams feels the Tour will benefit the city’s health and finances.

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She said: “Life expectancy in Sunderland is below the national average. Hopefully this event will help people to get out and live a healthier happier lifestyle.”

Council leader Graeme Miller, also hopes the event can help the local authority in its quest to become carbon neutral by 2030.

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He said: “The more people who become healthier and walk and bike rather than drive the more it will reduce our carbon emissions.”

Cyclists from Houghton Cycle Club and Sunderland Clarion Cycling Club were at the launch event.