More than 5,000 cyclists today completed a monster challenge in the sixth Etape Loch Ness.
The sold-out 66 mile event brought together cycling fans from all over the country and overseas to ride one of Scotland’s most beautiful routes on closed roads free of other traffic.
It proved another excellent money-spinner for charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, with the event expected to bring in over £230,000 for the charity.
And it resulted in two new course records being set by both the leading male and female riders – with the top three males, all from Moray Firth Cycle Club, all beating the previous fastest time and finishing within four seconds of each other.
The fastest male rider around the course was Lewis Macfarlane in a time of 2:45:56. The fastest female cyclist was Alison Leitch of Orkney Cycling Club in 2:55:13.
A special jersey was also awarded to the fastest male and female participants on the King of the Mountain stage to the top of the Glendoe summit outside of Fort Augustus.
The 2018 king, Andy Cunningham riding for Wheelbase Castelli MGD, retained his crown in a time of 19:05 while Alison Leitch made it up the 4.8-mile climb in 25:59.
Participants in today’s cycling extravaganza were joined by two of Scotland’s most formidable female endurance cyclists: record-breaking round the world cyclist Jenny Graham and Scotland Commonwealth Games mountain biker Lee Craigie, who has recently been appointed Active Scotland Commissioner.
Event director Malcolm Sutherland said: “A huge well done to all the riders who took part in this year’s event: it was a fantastic demonstration of a true passion for cycling.
“It has been amazing to see local crowds and businesses, along with riders from across Scotland and further afield, getting behind Etape Loch Ness and placing eyes of the cycling world on the Highlands.”
Will Morrison Ayton, Challenge Events Programme Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support, added: “It was incredible to see so many green and white jerseys fly past and a huge thank you goes to those who chose to cycle for Macmillan – over 1,000 participants in all – combining to raise such a terrific amount.
“This will bring the total raised at Etape Loch Ness events over the past six years to more than £1.25 million, which is a remarkable achievement.”
The first riders set off at 6.15am from Bught Park in the Highland capital. The route passed through Drumnadrochit, Invermoriston, Fort Augustus and Dores before finishing at the Event Hub at Eden Court, Inverness.
Entry for the Etape Loch Ness 2020 will open later this year.