A cycling festival that brought 10,000 visitors to Consett this June boosted the town’s economy by £1 million.

The Tour of the Reservoir is a popular, annual cycling event, centred upon the Derwent Reservoir to the west of Consett.

In this year’s event, the races began in Consett itself, with the riders also returning to the town for a thrilling finish.

A free street party was organised for the locals and visitors who flocked into Consett’s centre to cheer on the 200 professional cyclists taking part.

The party was put on by Project Genesis, a local organisation that has been helping to revive Consett’s fortunes since the late 1980s.

The chair of Project Genesis, John O’Connor, said, “The event was a bigger success than we’d ever imagined – and as well as providing a great day out, it provided a real uplift to local businesses.”

“With around 1,000 cyclists and supporters packing into the town, and plenty of visitors on the day, our businesses from B&Bs to food outlets and shops all reaped the benefit – two pubs actually ran out of beer.”

The Tour of the Reservoir was filmed by Eurosport, letting international TV viewers enjoy the dramatic beauty of the Derwentside landscape as they watched the cyclists battling with challenging hill climbs.

One team said that one of their leading riders had “really enjoyed the racing and loved the event – she thought it was brutal and will definitely be back!”

Project Genesis’s development director, Mike Clark, said, “The Tour of the Reservoir has been organised by Mike Hodgson for many years, and has always been a popular fixture on the cycling calendar.”

“Building a festival around it was one of the ways we are celebrating the revival of Consett. We now see a fantastic further opportunity in 2020 to show just how far we’ve come since the dark days 40 years ago when the steelworks closed.”

“Consett is well-known as the Town that Refused to Die – and we feel we have a great reason to celebrate the perseverance, hard work and sheer grit that local people have shown in regenerating the town over the past four decades.”

“With other towns around the UK going through their own grim industrial times right now, we feel we can show exactly what can be done with the right spirit and strategy.”

It is hoped that next year’s Tour of the Reservoir event can be expanded even more to help mark the 40th anniversary of Consett’s steelworks closing and celebrate the resilience the town has shown since suffering that blow.

John O’Connor said, “We’ve got all sorts of ideas to extend the festival so it includes everyone including local schools, outlying villages and sports enthusiasts of every level of ability – as well as the elite athletes who come to take part in the gruelling Tour.”

“We feel the area thoroughly deserves this kind of positive attention.”

“The steelworks closed on the 12th of September 1980 and people thought Consett would just dry up and blow away. But look at us now – four decades on, our town and the area are absolutely thriving.”

“It’s time to put a national and international focus on Derwentside as a beautiful and vibrant place not only to live and work, but to visit and stay too.”

The success of the 2019 Tour of the Reservoir event was helped by support from British Cycling and from a number of other individuals and organisations.

John O’Connor said, “British Cycling were tremendously supportive of the festival this year.”

“We had enormous support from many other sources, too. This included patronage from top Paralympian gold medal-winning cyclist Dame Sarah Storey, from MP Sir Alan Campbell, from Dean Richards and Alex Tait of Newcastle Falcons, and – importantly – from local councillors who supported the event financially.”

To learn more about Project Genesis, please go to https://project-genesis.org.uk/.

(Featured image courtesy of David Howard from Flickr Creative Commons.)


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David writes about local news, thought provoking stories, and yearns to capture the community spirit with a unique writing style.


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