LISTEN: The community council decide to support the proposed route
As Pitlochry prepares for the upcoming Etape Caledonia bike race in September, members of the Aberfeldy Community Council put forward their views on the effects of the race on the town and how implementing a reversed route bi-annually would be beneficial.
Etape Caledonia is a cycling event which has attracted over 35,000 people to the Scottish Highlands since its debut in 2007.
Due to the route of the race, many local farmers and businesses have been affected and discussions on an alternative route took place at the recent meeting of the Community Council on alternating annually on starting the race in Pitlochry and switching to Aberfeldy the following year.
Aberfeldy Community Council Chair, Victor Clements said: “There’s a concern from farmers that’s in the harvesting season. The thing they have suggested is that they reverse the direction of the race, so they’re still starting up at Pitlochry, but they’re going to come to Aberfeldy first and then go run the rest of it.
“So the advantage to Aberfeldy would be that the roads will be open a lot earlier in the morning, so it may well work to our advantage, but it probably doesn’t work to other people’s advantage.
The event, run by Limelight Sports, was hoped to run in May but had to be deferred until September.
Councillor John Duff added: “I’ve been involved in some of these discussions with the farmers and if they do run it in that fashion – reverse the route – the last cyclist should be through Coshieville and heading up the hill towards Schiehallion by the back of nine o’clock.
“The farmers were satisfied with no impact on their potential harvesting operations. So I think as far as the Tay Valley is concerned, then the farmers are happy.
“I think the people in the Tummel Loch Rannoch Valley are less likely to be happy because instead of their roads been open by mid-morning, they’re the ones that may have to suffer the closure from, you know, whatever 10 o’clock till two or thereabouts – I’m not quite sure what their what the time scales are so you may have cracked one problem and caused another.
This year, 5,000 places are available in the race, and participants can choose from two distances. The first is 85 miles of closed road cycling traditionally beginning and concluding in Pitlochry. The course will take cyclists around Loch Rannoch and Loch Tummel and up the steep incline of Mt Schiehallion (1,083m, 3553 ft).
The second route similarly begins in Pitlochry and take rides south towards Coshieville and round to Aberfeldy, finishing back in Pitlochry.
Another Community Council member added: “We’re pretty clear that this is probably a good thing for Aberfeldy.
“We were always the brunt of losing money every year tts just fair. I mean nobody’s saying to do that every year, every second year would be fairer of them and, you know one year of not getting the roads open until three or four o’clock and then the next year – like this year -should be nine.
Amongst the community council, members have previously run shops and other businesses who were financially affected by the race in previous years, one stating that on the day of Etape, they would be as well not opening due to how quiet the shop would be.
“I mean to be saved to do that every year, every second year will be fear of them and, you know what one year. Again, the root of three, four o’clock. And then the next year like this year should be nine.
Councillor John Duff added: “A lot of businesses here can’t trade very much in the Tay Valley, I mean on the Sunday bed and breakfast maybe don’t take bookings for the weekend or the Highland Safaris for instance, perhaps doesn’t open that kind of thing.
“And obviously, the Rannoch and Tummel people would have the same sort of issues that the other side of the Valley have this year if it’s run the other way around.
For more information on the Etape Caledonia, please visit: https://www.etapecaledonia.co.uk/
To stay up to date with Community Council business around Highland Perthshire, visit the ‘Community Council’ tab on Heartland.Scot: https://www.heartland.scot/category/community/community-councils/