Cyclists who sign up for the 2016 Etape Loch Ness closed-road sportive are being promised grins and not grimaces – the event will lead off from a city officially recognised as the happiest place to live in Scotland.
Inverness was also named as the second happiest place to stay in the UK in a survey undertaken earlier this year and organisers believe riders who sign up to the event – which opens for entries next week – will also leave with smiles on their faces.
Etape Loch Ness follows a 66-mile route on closed roads from Inverness around the shores of the world-famous loch before returning to the city. It will take place on April 24 next year, and is expected to see thousands of cyclists converge on the Highlands.
Event director Malcolm Sutherland says, “With stunning scenery, traffic-free roads and great camaraderie among the riders, Etape Loch Ness already has a reputation as being a very happy and friendly event.
“But the fact that Inverness is now recognised as the happiest place to live in Scotland and that we are more content here with our local community than any other part of the country just adds to the feel-good factor.
“This year we are encouraging our cyclists to #ridehappy in the lead-up to and during Etape Loch Ness. Cycling brings great joy to so many people, whether they are experienced riders looking to better their performance, or training for their first cycle sportive.
“They might have started cycling to get fit and improve their health, or perhaps they are taking part in Etape Loch Ness to raise money for a charity that is close to their hearts. Whatever the reason, we want them to celebrate the happiness that cycling brings to their lives.”
Etape Loch Ness is now in its third year, and 2016 is expected to follow the same pattern as the previous two years where places have been in exceptionally high demand. All places were snapped up within 72 hours last year, with a limited number of entries later made available for charity riders.
Priority entry for 2016 will open on Tuesday, October 27 for those who have pre-registered their interest via the event website www.etapelochness.com before opening to the general public 48 hours later, subject to event capacity.
Macmillan Cancer Support will once again be the official charity partner of Etape Loch Ness. Last year the organisation raised £170,000 at the event, while a total of £228,000 was generated for good causes.
Malcolm adds, “The way in which Etape Loch Ness has raised so much money for charity is something that makes us as event organisers incredibly happy. Completing the course in itself is an achievement, but to do so knowing that your actions are directly helping others will really bring a smile to your face.
“The feedback that we had from the 2015 event was really positive and as the event is garnering a reputation as a must-do sportive, we expect that demand will be high again for 2016.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, adds, “Etape Loch Ness has been an incredibly popular event since launching in 2014 and we are delighted to be supporting it again next year.
“Traffic free roads and one of Scotland’s most stunning natural landscapes make Loch Ness the perfect stage for cycling, and I look forward to seeing thousands of participants make their way to the Highlands for Etape Loch Ness again in April.”