Join the OPQS Rider club for VIP treatment on Northern closed-road sportive

The Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Pennines has announced that members of the Omega-Pharma Quick-Step team including Tom Boonen will take part in this year’s event, on October 6.

Etape Pennines riders who want to ride with Omega-Pharma Quick-Step riders will have to join the OPQS Rider Club to take part in the OPQS wave.

Only 150 places are available in what organisers are calling the OPQS Rider Club. Membership incudes access to pro riders, before and during the race, and an OPQS jersey, and will cost £350.

As well as legendary sprinter Boonen organisers are offering the chance to ride with five time winner of the Six days of Ghent Iljo Keisse; rising UK star Andrew Fenn; and winner of the young rider classification at the Tour of Qatar Nikolas Maes.

The package also includes a namecheck and photo on the OPQS team website; a place at the OPQS Rider Club Dinner on October 5 at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, with 2-3 members of the OPQS team; access to the OPQS support vehicle during the ride; and access to the OPQS support staff (masseuse and mechanic) on the ride day.

One of only a handful of closed-road sportives in the UK, Etape Pennines takes in 2,000 metres of climbing during the 78 mile course in County Durham. Organisers say: “With breathtaking views and exhilarating downhill sections that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, your hard work is certainly rewarded.”

James Robinson, IMG Challenger World Managing Director, said: “Etape Pennines has set itself apart from regular cycling events as the toughest in the UK, as well as the most rewarding. We are honoured that a professional cycling team such as OPQS, which is held in such high regard among the cycling community, will come to Etape Pennines in October. We hope not only those who will ride in this exclusive wave, but all our 2,000 participants, are inspired by their attendance.

General places are still available via the Etape Pennines website. More details of the OPQS package are here.


Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.