Funding puts Highland cycle events into gear for 2016

Two major cycling events in the Highlands which attract thousands of cyclists to the region have been given a combined financial boost of £16,400 for 2016.

 The funding has been awarded by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s events directorate. Etape Loch Ness has been given £10,900 which will be put towards marketing and social media campaigns. Strathpuffer 24 has received £5,500 to enhance onsite facilities for spectators and competitors and to contribute towards a website upgrade.

 Etape Loch Ness is a cycle sportive following a 360 degree 66-mile/106km route on closed roads around Loch Ness starting and finishing in Inverness.  The 2015 event, in April, received 3,328 entries. The event attracts a wide range of cyclists including elite and club cyclists, seasoned non-club cyclists, amateur cyclists, newcomers to road cycling and charity fundraisers looking for a new challenge.

 Building on the success of the inaugural event, the organisers’ mission is to grow and develop the Etape Loch Ness to be recognised as one of the UK’s leading cycle sportives.

 Its focus will be on delivering a quality, memorable and safe experience, increasing participant numbers, developing the event’s national appeal, developing stakeholder and sponsor investment, fostering good community relations, increasing economic impact to the local area, providing a platform for charity fundraising, delivering a targeted PR and marketing plan and increasing national media coverage.

 The Strathpuffer is a winter 24-hour cross country mountain-bike race open to male, female and mixed teams with categories for solo, pairs and quads between the ages of 16 and 80. It attracted 800 bikers in 2015.

 The ‘Puffer’s main objectives are to encourage visitors to the area  and experience other cycling areas away from the main well-known sites such as Glentress, Innerleithen, Mabie and Dalbeattie by showing them a wilder, not often seen side of the Highlands, which will enhance Scotland’s reputation as a world-class cycling destination.

 By offering a unique adventure, creating a fun ‘all-in-it-together’ friendly atmosphere, yet run as tough a race as possible, the aim of the event is to introduce the Strathpeffer/Contin area as a superb off-road cycling destination which has fantastic, on the doorstep mountain-biking, available to all abilities. The expectation is that competitors will make a return visit at another time of the year with friends and/or family.

 Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said:

“I am thrilled that these two great cycling events have received a total of £16,400 funding to help them promote the Etape Loch Ness and Strathpuffer 24 even more widely than before.

 “The Highlands are a major draw for outdoor enthusiasts and events such as these really put the region on the map and help cement our reputation as a must-visit cycling destination.

 “Conferences and events such as these don’t just provide entertainment, they represent a multi-million pound opportunity to boost jobs as well as deliver cultural and social benefits.”

 Etape Loch Ness event director, Malcolm Sutherland, said:

“The funding that we have received from EventScotland has been instrumental to the overall success of the event, and we are very grateful to learn that we have the support of the organisation for the 2016 event.

 “The support has allowed us to carry out additional promotional activities and help us to spread the word about the event to a much wider audience all over the UK. Statistics from the 2015 Etape Loch Ness show a 20% increase in the number of riders travelling from outwith the local area to participate, and with the help of EventScotland we hope to see this figure increase again in 2016.

 “The funding that we receive helps us to attract cyclists from all over the country – and some riders from overseas – to this beautiful part of the Highlands which is such a perfect backdrop for large-scale sports events like Etape Loch Ness.”

 Clancy Macdonald, from the Strathpuffer 24 organising team, said:

"It was only ever meant to be a one-off but the Strathpuffer24 continues to go from strength to strength. Eleven years on, it is widely recognised as the UK's iconic must-do true mountain-biker's event.

 “We're really delighted EventScotland are now on board. Their funding means we will be able to improve our infrastructure so we can increase competitor capacity and also look to adding to the event categories.

 “Additionally we intend to upgrade the shelters for our fantastic well-deserving, loyal band of marshals, without whom we could not run the event. With the help of VisitScotland, all these things will help maintain the longer term future of the Strathpuffer24.”

The EventScotland National Programme helps to provide financial assistance to events which provide a real benefit to their local areas. The Scottish Highlands has some of the finest terrain for all cycling disciplines, which is something that thousands of enthusiasts will experience through both of these events in 2016.

Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “The EventScotland National Programme helps to provide financial assistance to events which provide a real benefit to their local areas, and we were delighted to be in the position to support Etape Loch Ness and Strathpuffer 24 in the most recent funding round. The Scottish Highlands are blessed with some of the finest terrain for all cycling disciplines, which is something that thousands of enthusiasts will experience through both of these events in 2016. We look forward to working closely with the organisers of both over the coming weeks and months to ensure their success.

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