Excitement is building as last minute preparations get under way for the week-long 2013 Highland Perthshire Cycling Festival, being staged across Highland Perthshire from Saturday 4 to Saturday 11 May, ahead of the now legendary Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Caledonia road cycling event.
This year’s busy roster of both free and paid events include races, guided rides (on and off road), downhill taster sessions, bike focused family fun days and a film night. The wide ranging programme reinforces Highland Perthshire’s reputation as one of the UK’s premier cycling destinations.
There are only a few days to go until the Highland Perthshire Enduro, the new all mountain cross country stage race that kicks off the Festival on Saturday 4 May. More than 140 mountain bike riders have signed up to take on this 49km off road challenge on the fantastic trails surrounding the village of Dunkeld. Aimed at riders of all ages (14+) and abilities the route will feature lung puffing climbs and smile inducing technical descents, laid back singletrack, fast fire road, stunning views and, above all else, the chance for a fun ride with mates.
Due to this year's harsh winter conditions work on a new hand-made natural downhill section of the enduro course will only be completed this week, a few days before this flag ship event gets under way.
Katriona Brown from Highland Perthshire Cycling said: ‘It wasn’t enough to bring mountain bike enduro to Highland Perthshire, we wanted to add to the region’s route network by creating a new trail as part of the event legacy. However the forestry work on the hillside was delayed by more than three weeks due to the prolonged snow cover, giving us precious little time to get the trail built. With the support of some local mountain bike enthusiasts over the last few weeks we have created a natural, sweeping, fun downhill trail through a newly de-forested landscape and slate quarry that may well present a challenge for those without a downhill head but will be an exciting prospect for those with.”
Online entries are now closed for the Highland Perthshire Enduro. However you can still enter on the day but you must be at registration (Polney Sawmill, Dunkeld, PH8 0HU ) by 8am on Saturday 4 May. Entries cost £40 and riders must be aged 14 or over to take part.
Another new addition to this year’s programme is The Film Night at the new Birks Cinema, Aberfeldy, on Friday 10 May. It includes a selection of fantastic amateur and professional cycling films with the audience voting for the best film of the night. The evening will be headlined by adventure cyclists Graham Kitchener and Pauline Symaniak who will recount tales of their epic pedal across America with film clips and photos of the people, landscapes, wild weather and bears - 2 Scots - 2 bicycles - 4,000 miles across North America!
Women’s cycling is growing in popularity in Highland Perthshire. This has been proven with the new Girls on Tour event, a relaxed guided ride for women and girls - 25 miles of flattish riding with lots of stops for chat, snacks, lunch and coffee - on Sunday 5 May. Organisers have had to find additional professional guides to cope with the demand and are expecting up to 24 riders on the day.
On Friday 10 May Pitlochry High School will stage their Mini-Etape road cycling event for the fifth year running. Up to 40 secondary pupils will ride one of four individual 20 to 40 mile sections of the full Etape Caledonia route to raise money for their afterschool outdoor activity programme. They will be accompanied by teachers and other staff from the school, who have all achieved relevant cycle leader qualifications.
The importance of the Highland Perthshire Cycling Festival has been recognised by EventScotland, Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council as well as the local Destination Management Organisation, 2014 Community Fund and Explore Scotland who all offer financial or in-kind support. There has also been continued private sector support from Alpine Bikes.
For more information on Highland Perthshire Cycling and The Highland Perthshire Cycling Festival, visit www.highlandperthshirecycling.co.uk. You can also find Highland Perthshire Cyling on Facebook and Twitter @HPCycling