Pedal power has helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities across the country.
More than 5,000 cyclists took part in the fourth Etape Loch Ness yesterday, setting out at the crack of dawn to tackle the 66 mile route.
The popular sporting event, which starts and finishes in Inverness, sold out of its 5,200 places in just 50 hours with keen cyclists travelling from all over the UK to take part, many wanting to support charities close to their hearts.
So far, around £200,000 has been raised for the event’s official charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, a figure which is expected to increase in the coming weeks.
One North mother who set off on her bike round the course was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease when she was just 38.
Leona Braund, who lives near Inverness, decided to tackle the route with her friend, April Conroy, to raise money for Funding Neuro, a charity which funds research into advancing treatments and cures of brain-related conditions and diseases through technology. Her fundraising target is £2,000 and she has already collected £1,540.
Now aged 43, Mrs Braund, who has two daughters, is Funding Neuro’s first community ambassador for the Highlands and Islands
She said: “This charity is close to my heart because it’s neurological and not just about Parkinson’s. Their work is exciting and hopefully it will result in a breakthrough in many capacities.”
The first Etape cyclists set off at 6.15am on the challenging route and the fastest male rider was Andy Cunningham of All Terrain Cycling in a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes and 20 seconds. The quickest female was Carol Hinchcliffe of Stonehaven Cycling Club who crossed the line in 2 hours 55 minutes and 6 seconds.
Mr Cunningham and Ms Hinchcliffe were also crowned King and Queen of the Mountain as they were the fastest to reach the top of Glendoe summit near Fort Augustus, receiving the traditional red polka dot jerseys.
Jessie Longhurst, challenge events programme manager at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “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.”
Anyone who would like to donate to Funding Neuro should visit Mrs Braund’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LeonaBraund