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Etape Caledonia: Spectacular scenery at the UK’s original closed-road sportive

8 Apr 2019

The Etape Caledonia is the UK’s oldest closed-road sportive, and its spectacular setting in the Scottish Highlands makes it arguably the most special too.

Taking place on Sunday 19th May, the Etape Caledonia is the UK’s original closed-road sportive and its route showcases the breathtaking moorland, glistening lochs and stunning munros of the Perthshire countryside to give cyclists a ride they will not forget.

Now in its 12th year, Etape Caledonia is as big as ever, and gives 5,000 bike enthusiasts the chance to explore Perthshire’s Highlands during a weekend of truly unique bike riding.

No matter how spectacular the setting, the most important aspect of a sportive is, of course, its route, and luckily the Etape Caledonia has that sussed.

The 85-mile route starts and finishes in Pitlochry, a vibrant Victorian town on the banks of the River Tummel.

Heading northwest, the route hugs the banks of Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch to get the circulation going before taking you on to the first climbing test of the day, Trinafour, within the first 15 miles of riding. Rewarding riders with their first breath-taking views of the day.

Rounding Loch Rannoch and passing through the dense pine forests, you’ll ride in the shadow of the grand Meall Buidhe munro as the road flattens, affording some well-earned respite ahead the day’s biggest test, Schiehallion.

Schiehallion is a vast mountain, and its name is an anglicised form of the Gaelic ‘Sìdh Chailleann’ meaning ‘Mound of the Caledonians’, such is the vastness of its 718m peak.

Coming after 65 miles, it’s a tough ascent that will push even the fittest riders deep into their reserves to reach the summit.

It’ll all be worthwhile, however, as the entire climb is flanked by beautiful purple heather moorland, small mosses, and blaeberry bushes – with its edible berries – guide you through to the summit, which offers spectacular views worthy of a postcard.

After a well-earned breather at Schiehallion’s summit, a long relaxing descent takes you into a rolling final 20 miles back into Pitlochry and the event village, where a nice tipple, locally-sourced cuisine and finisher’s medal will be waiting for you.

What makes the spectacular scenery, tough climbs and sweeping descents that bit sweeter is the fact that it all takes place on closed roads.

The Etape Caledonia was the original closed-road sportive in the UK, and a decade later is one of only a few that still treats its riders to a traffic-free, stress-free ride through some of the UK’s most exhilarating land.

That means you can enjoy every sweeping hairpin of the Schiehallion descent knowing that it will only be you, your fellow cyclists and the open road all the way home.

Beyond the Highlands ride, the Etape Caledonia also helps brings the local community and businesses together through its ‘business directory’, giving all visiting riders a simple list of outstanding Perthshire businesses that can provide goods and service throughout your stay.

Go for a tour of a local Scottish whisky distillery, take yourself on a Highland safari, unwind in a quaint B&B or dissect your ride over an Americano in a local coffee shop. It’s all right on your doorstep.

The Etape Caledonia operates two routes – the full 85-mile version and a shorter 40-mile option – and while the latter is sold out for normal entry, the more challenging yet equally more rewarding 85-mile option has some spaces still remaining.

For £79.99, you’ll get entry to the course, four fully-stocked feed zones and mechanic stops en-route, a race pack including timers, a finisher’s medal and a sweeping bus service if the challenge is just a step too far.
Additionally, for £124.99, you can get all of the above as well as a free parking space, an exclusive jersey and cap and registered delivery of the race pack.

If you are keen to ride but would rather tackle the 40-mile route, you can still enter through the charity Marie Curie, which asks for a £150 fundraising pledge from all its riders.

For all information on how to enter visit the Etape Caledonia website here. Even better, Cyclist readers get 20% off with code: CYCLIST20. Get your entry for under £65.

What you need to know

When: Sunday 19th May 2018
Where: Pitlochry, Scotland
Distance: 40/85 miles
Cost: From £79.99