World-record-breaking Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree has backed the idea of a new cycling event being created in and around the North Coast 500 in the Highlands.
And his call has been supported by the managing director of the increasingly-popular North destination.
Mr Obree, 51, the double world hour record holder, world 4k pursuit champion and former Olympian, is hosting an evening session at Aberdeen Central Library next week as part of the Tour Series celebrations.
And, as somebody who had a film made about his achievements – The Flying Scotsman, starring Jonny Lee Miller – he told The Press and Journal he was convinced the NC 500 would be a superb venue to spread cycling’s appeal.
Mr Obree said: “It’s a great idea. The NC 500 has been pretty high profile since it opened and it offers a wonderful route to explore by bike.
“I am sure it would offer a beautiful and challenging race location which would attract the support of sponsors to help deliver an amazing event in the north of Scotland.
“I think it is really a matter of when it happens, not if it happens.
Tom Campbell, managing director of North Coast 500, responded yesterday: “It is great to have such positive comments from Graeme Obree.
“The North Highlands are indeed a superb location for cycling and – assuming the proper safety measures and infrastructure was in place – the NC 500 route would make a fantastic backdrop for an event.”
Mr Obree made history when he surged to a new global milestone at the velodrome in Hamar in Norway in 1993.
And he added it was terrific the sport had progressed so much in Scotland during the last 25 years, largely because of the exploits of competitors such as himself and Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists, Sir Chris Hoy and Neil Fachie.
He said: “When I started racing, cycling was very niche and cyclists were sometimes seen as a bit weird.
“It was about shaving your legs and all that stuff. But the success has been incredible and far-reaching across society. Of course, people like Chris and Neil are an inspiration and they have achieved remarkable things.
“But, for me, I started cycling because I loved exploring and I still get the same sense of freedom when I am out cycling today.”
Mr Obree has thrown his support behind The Tour Series, which has already made waves before it arrives in the north east on May 25.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think we’ve seen with the Loch Ness Etape the impact and interest in events like that in Inverness.
“To do it across the NC500 would bring together both the very significant interest in cycling but also the iconic status that the NC500 is already enjoying.
“I think all of that is a huge opportunity for Inverness and the Highlands to demonstrate all we can do to support any events like that.
“It would be a fantastic opportunity for the region to showcase all we have to offer and show we can bring these events together.”
Graeme Obree’s Aberdeen event
Graeme Obree’s evening session at Aberdeen Central Library has already proved extremely popular.
Scores of city-based businesses have also saddled up to support the arrival of The Tour Series on Thursday, May 25.
More than 60 city centre outlets have signed up to promotional activity to show their support for the elite event, which is being supported by the City Centre Masterplan and will transform the area into a cycling hub.
Participating businesses, which include national retailers and independent stores, are taking part in the city window dressing competition, offering extended shopping hours on race day, cycle-themed menus and drinks and even an aerodynamic haircut is up for grabs.
The Bon Accord Centre is also offering free parking for the event.
Craig Stevenson, centre manager, said: “We’re delighted to be playing a part in welcoming the Tour Series to the city centre.
“This is a fantastic and energetic event that is a real positive for Aberdeen and its residents.”