Cycling event in region to be headed up by Olympic champ.
The Etape Pennines ride - said to be cycling's equivalent of the Great North Run - will follow a 78-mile route around County Durham, beginning and ending at Ushaw College, west of Durham City.
The event, England's first mass participation closed roads cycling event, will be held on Sunday, October 7, and is expected to raise thousands of pounds for Marie Curie Cancer Care, its official charity, and other good causes.
It was officially launched this week, as Rob Hayles, who won silver in the pursuit event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, covered parts of the route.
Mr Hayles, who now helps coach Tour de France star Mark Cavendish, said: "Marie Curie is a great charity and anything which encourages people to ride a bike and see the countryside is a great cause. If you're going to get on a bike in this neck of the woods in October you've got to be pretty keen.
"It shows how cycling is becoming more and more popular." Etape Pennines is being launched following the success over five years of Etape Caledonia, based in Pitlochry, Scotland, which boosts the Perthshire economy by pounds 2m every year. Places for this year's Caledonian ride, on Sunday, May 13, sold out in nine days.
The Pennines ride has already attracted 2,000 cyclists, including 11 from overseas.
More details will be announced nearer the date. Visit www.etapepennines.co.uk
CAUSE Rob Hayles