Double Olympic gold medal-winning and World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell Shand MBE is encouraging women to get on their bikes next month when the new Ride Rochdale cycling event is staged for the first time. 

The new flagship cycling event for women, supported by British Cycling and Rochdale Borough Council, is being held on Sunday 21 May and takes place in stunning south Pennines countryside. The rides contain well-known climbs, spectacular descents and even a section of cobbles.

Joanna, one of best track racers of her generation, checked out the routes for herself this month and said Ride Rochdale was a great opportunity for cyclists to test themselves against some well-known climbs amid beautiful scenery in the area: “I’ve lived in the borough for seven years so I’m quite well acquainted with routes around here – lots of tough climbs, which have been really good for my training in preparation for the Olympics, so I’m excited about Ride Rochdale taking in a lot of the climbs I’ve used throughout my career. It’s a good opportunity for everyone else to enjoy some of the climbs and brilliant scenery.”

After riding the routes she added: “The Ride Rochdale routes have some good challenging climbs, but plenty of descending as well. They’re aimed at cyclists who want a challenge, so not complete beginners - someone who wants a challenge to work towards, perfect for those who want to take that step up. Not only does cycling get you fit, it’s good for your body, your heart and your mind!”

Ride Rochdale features a choice of two routes – Blackstone Vale and Blackstone Vale and Moor.

Blackstone Vale is a 50-mile route with the distinct climb of Blackstone Edge within four miles of the start, a long descent and short valley section taking you to another classic steep cobbled climb through the medieval village of Heptonstall followed by a moorland road. There are flatter sections deep in the valley bottoms through Todmorden and Hebden Bridge before tackling the classic five-mile Cragg Vale climb before riding down Blackstone Edge and the final four miles back to Kingsway Park Sports Centre.

Blackstone Vale and Moor is a 75-mile route that follows the ‘Blackstone Vale’ course until branching off at Hebden Bridge to tackle the steep cobbled climb through Heptonstall for a second time. This is followed by an epic 20 miles of serious climbing and descending over the Widdop Moors. Reversing the moorland road will lead you back down to Hebden Bridge with just a short valley section before the grand finale of the Cragg Vale climb, Blackstone Edge descent and easier roads to the finish.​

Both routes take their names from Blackstone Edge in Littleborough which feature in the early part of the scenic courses in an area chosen for a UK stage of  ​the Tour de France in 2014.

Joanna will welcome entrants at the start of the event, with both routes setting off from Kingsway Park Sports Centre.

Disabled riders are also invited to cycle routes around Kingsway Park Sports Centre during an accessible ride being staged on the same day, aimed at showing how cycling is for everyone.  National organisation Cycling Projects with Link4Life Rochdale Wheels for All will provide a broad range of accessible bikes for the event.

To view route maps, event video, register for places and download a free Ride Rochdale training plan visit