LISTEN: Gary Willis explains what differences can be expected this year
The annual Etape Caledonia is preparing for the ‘biggest’ event ever on September 19th 2021 following its postponement due to COVID-19.
The cycling event has also changed its usual route for participants, a decision that has been taken in light of the amended date of September 19th being during the harvest season for local farmers and organisers Limelight Sports desire to take the needs of the local community into consideration.
Technical Director of Etape Caledonia, Gary Willis, said:
“The usual May date that we had was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic but we’re really quite confident that we’re moving ahead with what will actually be the biggest Etape Caledonia so it shows you there is a pent up desire to get out there and do events and ride in the area.
“The big change for us is that we’re actually going to do it in a clockwise direction.
“The last 13 years have been anti-clockwise and we’re actually going in the opposite direction this year.
“The reason for that is down to local engagement and the fact that the farming community in the Tay Valley region it’s (September) main harvest time for them for potatoes
“It’s been about a two and a half months process, going back and forward with key groups in that community to look at how we could actually deliver something in 2021.
“I think Limelight Sports as an organisation, we’re keen – regulations allowing – to deliver this year. We obviously missed 2020 which for all of our participants was a big hit and its understandable why but we think we can now deliver a safe event and as I said that demand has really built up and we’re sitting at about 5,800 so potentially the biggest ever Etape Caledonia.”
Participants will still set off from Pitlochry in the early hours of Sunday 19th September but, instead of heading North as they have done in previous years, the reversed route will now take them South towards Logierait, through Aberfeldy, then North towards Schiehallion.
Participants cycling the 85 miles route will loop around Loch Rannoch before heading back towards Pitlochry along the banks of Loch Tummel. This unique route reversal gives the opportunity for participants to see the climb of Schiehallion from a totally new perspective, and to tackle the ascent from a very different angle. Riders will enjoy a unique challenge which will be physically testing, as well as a novel way to see this iconic route from a brand-new perspective.
Managing Director at Limelight Sports Club, James Robinson, said:
“Etape Caledonia is a really fantastic event and I am genuinely delighted that it will be back in Highland Perthshire this Autumn. The pandemic has definitely dealt a series of major operational challenges to event operators of all shapes and sizes.
“Our team, the local community and Perth & Kinross Council have worked incredibly hard to develop innovative solutions to problems created by the pandemic and we’re really grateful for their support and commitment to ensuring the event goes ahead. We are all really looking forward to seeing everyone come together once again to take in the beauty of Highland Perthshire in Autumn and enjoy its much-missed hospitality.
“Over the years, participants have suggested to us the possibility of doing the route in reverse. Now, thanks to this rather exceptional and unusual combination of potatoes and a pandemic, this year’s participants will be able to take advantage of that once in a lifetime opportunity to cycle the route in reverse.
“Cycling has also seen a surge in interest over the last 18 months, and we are keen for as many people as possible to experience the unique sensation of cycling on exclusively closed roads, whilst taking in the dramatic hilltop views and sweeping descents that the event offers.
“Etape Caledonia is the UK’s original closed road cycling event and we hope all of the participants enjoy this unique experience being part of this challenging and exciting sportive in this once-in-a-lifetime format.”
Places are still available for Etape Caledonia 2021. To book, please visit: https://www.etapecaledonia.co.uk/