Thousands of cyclists descended upon the Highlands as Etape Loch Ness – one of Scotland’s most popular sporting events – returned to the roads around the iconic loch today (Sunday, April 23).
The sportive sold out of 5,200 places in just 50 hours, with cycling fans travelling from far and wide for the rare opportunity to ride through some of the country’s most stunning scenery on traffic-free roads.
The fastest male rider around the 66-mile course was Andy Cunningham of All Terrain Cycling in a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes and 20 seconds. The fastest female cyclist was Carol Hinchcliffe from Stonehaven CC in 2 hours, 55 minutes and 06 seconds.
A red polka dot jersey was also awarded to the fastest male and female participants to reach the top of the Glendoe summit outside of Fort Augustus. Andy and Carol were also crowned King and Queen of the Mountain for their efforts on the monstrous 4.8-mile climb.
Andy completed the King of the Mountain stage in 18 minutes and 12 seconds, while Carol took 24 minutes and 24 seconds.
Event director Malcolm Sutherland says, “The fourth Etape Loch Ness has been the biggest yet, bringing thousands of keen cyclists to the Highlands to ride through our glorious countryside.
“Months of planning and many volunteers go into organising an event on this scale, and to see so many participants – many raising an incredible amount of money for charity – instils a great sense of pride in everyone involved.
“We would like to offer a huge thank you to all of our partner agencies, communities along the route and the public, without whose support Etape Loch Ness would not happen.”
Many participants have used the opportunity to raise much-needed funds for good causes across the country. Official charity Macmillan Cancer Support has received a welcome boost from charitable riders, who have raised around £200,000 – a figure which will rise in the coming weeks. Local businesses – including hotels, restaurants and shops – have also enjoyed an off-season rise in trade.
Jessie Longhurst, challenge events programme manager at Macmillan Cancer Support says, “We’d like to offer a massive thank you to all our riders for their fantastic support at Etape Loch Ness this year. As our biggest Etape team so far with almost 1,000 riders, we have raised around £200,000 to help people living with cancer – and this is set to rise. Thank you also to Caledonian Concepts for organising such an amazing event, and for allowing us to be a part of it.”
The first cyclists set off at 6.15am, following a route which began and finished in Inverness, passing through Drumnadrochit, Invermoriston, Fort Augustus and Dores.
The second fastest male was Lewis MacFarlane from Moray Firth CC in 2 hours, 48 minutes and 59 seconds, while the third was James Higgins from Moray Firth CC in 2 hours, 49 minutes and 05 seconds. Marie Meldrum from West Highland Wheelers was the second fastest female around the route in 3 hours, 02 minutes and 37 seconds, and Claire Connelly was third with a time of 3 hours, 13 minutes and 11 seconds.
Etape Loch Ness is supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate. Stuart Turner, head of EventScotland, said: “Etape Loch Ness is a fantastic event and it’s great to see its continued success, with the closed-road sportive attracting thousands of keen cyclists again this year. Scotland is the perfect stage for cycling events and the 2017 Etape Loch Ness will no doubt deliver strong benefits to Inverness and the surrounding area.”
Registration of interest for the 2018 Etape Loch Ness can be made on the website at www.etapelochness.com