SCORES of cycling fans lined the streets at the weekend as some of the biggest names in the sport raced through Pendle and the Ribble Valley.

Olympic heroes and some of the world’s best cyclists descended on East Lancashire for the British National Road Race Championships.

Eurosport 2 televised the races, which started in the shadow of Pendle Hill and saw 130 of the best road riders in Britain cover 15 laps of a 180-kilometre circuit taking in the villages of Barley, Roughlee and Downham.

Geraint Thomas headed a clean sweep for Team Sky as the Welsh rider claimed the British National Road Race title ahead of team-mates Peter Kennaugh and Ian Stannard, who finished second and third respectively.

Kennaugh – who has now been runner-up for the past three years – was pipped in a final sprint by his elder team-mate Thomas after Stannard had been dropped on the final lap.

Thomas, 24, was last on the podium in 2008 when he finished third but will now get the chance to wear the British National Champions jersey at the Tour de France, which starts next week.

“It is really special, the Nationals is something everybody dreams of, myself included,” he said.

Earlier, Emma Pooley ended Nicole Cooke’s nine-year reign as Britain’s road race champion by clinching the national title in a shortened women’s race.

The 27-year-old Cervelo Test Team rider made a crucial break just metres from the line to cruise to a clear win, leaving Lizzie Armitstead in second, with current Olympic champion Cooke having to settle for third.

Beijing Olympic bronze medallist, Steven Burke, from Colne, said: “It’s great to have the National Championships right here on my doorstep in Pendle.

“It’s a really challenging circuit with a long hard climb towards Pendle Hill and some tricky descents.”

Fellow Pendle-based riders Ian Wilkinson, a North West champion, and UK Elite rider Paul Oldham also put their skills to the test on the road.

Local councillors praised the event saying it would continue to put East Lancashire on the cycling map.

Coun Mike Blomeley, leader of Pendle Conservatives, said: “With live television coverage, this was a brilliant chance for us to get Pendle’s wonderful countryside and best kept villages under the spotlight.

“To have a major national sporting event in Pendle is a real coup.

“It was a wonderful day out for residents and a boost for our local tourism industry.”