And you can ride the same route too on this year's Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge...

There's no better coach than a TV cameraman: "Just ride up that hill one more time."

Fine. Except this is the middle hump of the 'Ryals' he's talking about and the Ryals - a steep, three slope hill near the village of Ryal - make grown men cry. I was riding with three pros: the hill didn't phase them, but I'm a slacker, this was the first time back on the road bike since before Christmas.

We were riding (a) to keep warm and (b) to show off the Northumbrian hoar frost to its best effect. BBC and ITV turned up with camera crews so we had to put on a good show. It half blummin' well killed me.

I'd ridden out to Stamfordham, near Newcastle on Tyne, for the photo op, and would be riding back, too. 35 mile round trip. Not far but made harder for me by trying to keep up with pro riders on one of the toughest climbs in the North East.

The pro riders were Endura's James Moss, current Scottish road champion Ross 'Creebz' Creber of the Cycle Premier Metaltek team, and Tom Last of the Sigma Sport Specialized team.

They were there to promote the Elite Road Race Championships which will be centred on Stamfordham on 26th June (I was there to take photos but got roped in as a model). This is the first time the national championships have been in the North East. The coup was pulled off by Peter Harrison, a local bike shop owner and organiser of the Northern Rock Cyclone weekend of cycling, which runs from 24 to 26 June this year.

A 5000-rider sportive takes in the Ryals the day before the pros. But it's just one ascent. For the pros, there are three laps.

Newcastle-based James Moss, who races for the Endura team, said: “I can’t wait to race on home turf and I’m really looking forward to the support from the local crowd.”

Northern Rock Cyclone weekend organiser Peter Harrison said: “The Northern Rock Cyclone has grown into a fantastic event in recent years. Local people love it and it’s a great chance to show off our beautiful scenery to cyclists from around the country. To add the National Elite Road Race Championships to the weekend is a real coup for the North East.”

Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge entries are now open offering 33, 63 and 104 mile route options. The longer two routes share part of their course with the National Elite Road Race Championships route, including the Ryals climb, two miles northwest of Matfen.

British Cycling’s National Elite Road Race Championships are the biggest single day of racing on the British cycling calendar. Last year’s field including Emma Pooley, Nicole Cooke, Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish.