If you’ve been inspired by Team GB’s achievements in the Rio 2016 Olympics then get on your bike and head to Ballater which, with a bumper crop of top cycle events about to take place, has become the region’s self-styled home of cycling.
The Deeside village is gearing up for a series of cycling highs catering for all abilities – from families seeking a weekend of fun to competitive cyclists looking to be challenged on testing long distance routes.
The September cycling season kicks-off with the Quilter Cheviot Etape Royale which takes place on Sunday, September 18, and has been endorsed by record-breaking long-distance cyclist and adventurer Mark Beaumont who has tested the 100-mile closed road route.
The Royal Deeside Family Cycling Festival takes places over the same weekend, from September 16 -18 to complement the Etape, regarded as one of Scotland’s most scenic and challenging closed route cycle sportives and which starts and finishes in Ballater.
The 100-mile circular route takes participants on a traffic-free journey through historic Royal Deeside and Aberdeenshire, Moray’s Whisky Country, and back along the banks of the picturesque River Dee, allowing cyclists to take in the breathtaking scenery present throughout the region. For those who don’t feel quite up to the full distance, there are also 45 and 65-mile routes available.
A series of family-friendly events and activities are on offer over the course of the weekend, including a mountain bike skills circuit and a bike roadshow featuring weird, wonderful and wacky bikes from the past and the present, body zorbing and a climbing wall. Those participating in the Quilter Cheviot Etape Royale are encouraged to bring their families along to enjoy the festivities, including a family ceilidh, showings of cycling themed films and talks and presentations by Mark Beaumont and former Scottish Rugby captain Rob Wainwright and see what the rest of what Ballater has to offer.
The following weekend, on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September Cycle Highlands is running a demo weekend with guided rides and the chance to trial the latest Santa Cruz and Juliana bike models.
The busy month of biking in and around Ballater will be followed by a bespoke conference which is expected to further reinforce Cairngorm’s growing reputation as one of the places to visit in the UK to enjoy the booming sport of mountain biking. The Scottish Mountain Bike Conference – Innovation Edition will be held from 17 to 19 November in Aviemore, recognising the region’s popularity for the sport, and including some of the programme being delivered in and about Ballater.
Richard Watts, chairman of Ballater Business Association runs a specialist cycle shop in the village and says that after London 2012 Olympics there was a growth in Scottish cycling with the number of competitive events and female participants increasing.
He expects that the historic achievements of British cyclists competing Rio 2016 to also impact positively in take-up of the sport – and hopes that the Ballater region will see the benefits.
Mr Watts says: “Riders from all over the UK, and overseas come to the Cairngorms to enjoy cycling in all its forms and who could blame them?
“Ballater is an ideal location from which to explore natural trails and various purpose-built centres and is surrounded by terrain suitable for all abilities.
“From easy forest trails to single-track descents cyclists can explore for an hour, day or week.
“The quiet roads and former railway, now the Deeside Way, give a spectacular window into local nature and history and there are offer and the stunning landscapes to enjoy.
“The cycling opportunities we’re able to offer in this part of the world, provide cyclists stunning landscapes to soak in on two wheels and are a real asset to the area.
“We hope to reap the benefits of the success of Team GB’s cycling stars in Rio 2016 who are a real inspiration and may well encourage others to to give cycling a try and to come and do so exploring our wonderful region on two wheels.”
The Royal Deeside Cycling Festival takes place from Friday 16 to Sunday 18 September in Ballater. Supported by EventScotland and official charity sponsor Marie Curie, the Quilter Cheviot Etape Royale gets underway on Sunday 18 September, the cycle sportive covers 100-miles and an ascent of 2,996m. For more information, visit: www.etaperoyale.com
Further details of the Demo Weekend from September 24-25 is available at http://www.cyclehighlands.com/events/