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Over 1,000 hardy souls embrace winter elements to compete in Strathpuffer

More than 1,000 cyclists braved the elements to take on the mammoth Strathpuffer 24 Mountain Bike Endurance Event at the weekend.

The cold temperatures added to the already gruelling task, as competitors battled it out in freezing conditions, and around 17 hours of darkness, to get to the finish line.

Two sporting greats – record-breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont and former Scotland rugby captain Rob Wainwright – also took part.

Several riders, including Mr Beaumont’s partner Alex Glasgow, suffered injuries as riders battled to stay on their bikes in the icy conditions.

Kyle Cartmell, 17, and partner Wilson Renwick from Team RT23, won the men’s pairs event.

Ultimately though, the event belonged to local man Marty Ross and his gritty performance, smashing out 25 laps to take the much-lauded 2019 ‘Puffer Men’s Solo title for the first time in four attempts – despite several tumbles along the way.

Mr Beaumont, who circumnavigated the globe in just 80 days on two wheels, said: “It is a pretty unique event and it has got a great reputation. I haven’t done anything like this before.

“It is very well supported and I think the best part is the amount of supporters. The atmosphere was just incredible.

“It was amazing to see the number of local suppliers get on board and the community really being part of it.

“It was a gruelling event and very tough but I was in safe hands with Alex.

“The event organisers put on a great show and they deserve enormous praise. I can’t say I enjoyed every minute of it but I loved the experience and there was this great atmosphere around the place.”

Former Scotland rugby star Rob Wainwright, who competed in a pair with fellow Coll man Colin MacFarlane, said there were “lots of highs and lows”.

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He said: ” It was a very tough event and it was very challenging, particularly with the weather.

“Certain parts of the course were like an ice rink, a very rugged and rocky one at that.

“It is very well run. It doesn’t get much harder than that but it was fantastic to see the breadth of people involved.”

Team Yellow Wellies, a fundraising quartet from Invergordon lifeboat station, also competed.

Mhairi Ross, Michael Maclellan and Scott Walker joined seasoned veteran of the event coxswain Allan Lipp, aiming to smash their fundraising total from the year previous which stood at more than £1,000.

Former professional mountain biker Lee Craigie, who was announced as the new Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland in December, was behind the camera for the first time this year.

As a former elite athlete, Craigie has been active in her involvement with events like Strathpuffer and for this weekend’s event she interviewed all the athletes.

On her Twitter account she said: “This year’s Strathpuffer was absolutely exhausting.

“Back to racing it next year for a rest. Huge congrats to all the riders who survived the difficulty conditions this year and a big thank you.”

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