This weekend, bikes will be creating a buzz in the Highland capital as more than 5,600 cyclists, along with an army of passionate spectators, enjoy the excitement of Etape Loch Ness.
Riders from all over Scotland and beyond will be taking part in the annual event on Sunday April 28, which gives a rare opportunity to cycle around the loch on traffic-free roads.
And while cyclists – many of them completing the 66-mile course for good causes including official charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support – cannot wait to get under way, the anticipation for fans is also building.
The action over Etape Loch Ness weekend will be focused on the event hub at Eden Court in Inverness, which is close to the start and finish line.
The area around the theatre on the banks of the River Ness offers a prime spot for spectators to cheer riders along the finishing straight.
Event director Malcolm Sutherland said: “By the time riders make the final turn on to Ness Walk they will have cycled 66 miles through some of the most stunning scenery Scotland has to offer and with only other cyclists on the road.
“But in spite of that unique and exhilarating experience, their legs will be very tired and hearing the cheers of the crowd will really help them to make one last push.
“The spectators who come along to Etape Loch Ness are enthusiastic and passionate and the event wouldn’t be the same without them.
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“Although hundreds will gather in the city centre, we cannot forget the many communities along the route where householders get up early on a Sunday to give encouragement.
“Local residents – along with the dozens of volunteers who give up their time – have helped Etape Loch Ness earn a reputation as one of the best events of its kind.”
The riders will set out in waves from 6.15am.
Cyclists at the head of the pack are expected to arrive in Drumnadrochit from 6.50am; Invermoriston from 7.20am; Fort Augustus from 7.35am; Foyers/Inverfarigaig from 8.10am; Dores from 8.40am; and Inverness from 9am.
However, riders will continue to pass through these towns and villages throughout the morning.
It is anticipated that all riders will finish their loop of the famous loch and make it back to the Highland capital by 12.30pm.
There will be lots of attractions set up at the event hub for participants, their supporters and cycling fans, including a pre-event afternoon of storytelling and adventure on the Saturday with ultra-endurance riders Jenny Graham and Lee Craigie.
Jenny, who became the fastest woman to cycle solo and unsupported around the world in 2018, will be talking about her incredible journey, while Lee, a Commonwealth mountain biker, will be presenting her film, Divided.
The award-winning film captures her journey in the 2,745-mile Tour Divide race from Canada to the Mexican border. Both cyclists are taking part in Etape Loch Ness this year.
There will also be a chance for riders to get any last-minute tweaks to their bikes from the team of mechanics from Cycle Republic and grab any essentials they may have forgotten from Ekoi, Bikes of Inverness, and Big Bobble Hats, and check out the range of Shand bikes on display
Fuel 10K will be handing out their protein boosted breakfasts, and there will be a fantastic selection of local food from Bad Girl Bakery, Highland Hog Roasts and Eden Court, and pop up bars from event partners The Singleton of Glen Ord and Cromarty Brewing Company.
Tired and weary legs will be able to benefit from post-event massages on Sunday and there will also be the chance to learn more about the work of Macmillan Cancer Support.
Team Macmillan riders have raised more than £1 million over the past five years of Etape Loch Ness and the charity expects it will be handing out many of its special cycle jerseys to riders who have been able to collect more than £200 in sponsorship for this year’s event.
Entries for the 2020 Etape Loch Ness will open later this year.
Traditionally, all general entries sell out within hours of going on sale, and anyone who wants to make sure of a place in the sportive is encouraged to register their interest for the 2020 event at www.etape lochness.com
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