The highlight of the Scottish cycling calendar, the Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Caledonia, takes place this year on Sunday 11th May. An 81 mile circular challenge, and open to riders aged between 18 and 80, it is Britain’s first mass closed-road cycling event and traverses some of the most beautiful parts of Highland Perthshire.
Starting in Pitlochry, the route takes cyclists north a few miles and then heads west as far as Bridge of Gaur, at the far western end of Loch Rannoch. At this point, the riders head east and south passing through the pretty conservation village of Fortingall, along the River Tay through Aberfeldy to Ballinluig, from where they start on the home stretch back to Pitlochry.
The town buzzes with activity, and swarms with bikes and riders, from the Friday before the race. There are practice rides, final equipment checks, and registration to deal with before setting out on the day of the race, at the extremely early hour of 06.45am after a carb-packed breakfast!
The Etape is now fully booked for riders this year, but there are plenty of opportunities to share the excitement of the race from the viewpoints along the way, and there’s even a special “Cheer Zone” at Logierait, before they tackle the final big hill of this punishing route.
Pitlochry is only 25 miles north of Perth, and is easily accessible by car and train (or bike!), but accommodation in the area will be at a premium, so it is advisable to book in good time. To be sure not to get caught out by the various temporary road closures on the day, it is worth checking the detailed map (with timings) on the Etape Caledonia website: www.etapecaledonia.co.uk
Etape Caledonia is certainly an event for the whole family to enjoy, whether or not you are a keen cyclist, and the excitement over the whole weekend is tangible!