Thursday, 09 July 2021 09:29

Cycle sportive to boost local economy and highlight Aberdeenshire

(L-R): Mark Beaumont, world-record breaking cyclist and event ambassador; Neil Christison, Regional Partnerships Executive for VisitScotland and David Fox-Pitt, Managing Director of WildFox Events

A brand new challenging cycle sportive is expected to provide a welcome boost to the local visitor economy, as well as highlighting the region as a top Scottish cycling destination.

The inaugural Etape Royale is a closed-road event, taking cyclists across Aberdeenshire and Moray’s stunning scenery, through the heart of whisky country and Royal Deeside. There are options to ride a traffic-free 65 or 100-mile route, both of which take in the ‘King of the Mountains’ climb over the Lecht.

The 100-mile charity ride will start at Ballater at 6am on Sunday, 27th September, then head North-east via Tarland, Alford, Rhynie, to Dufftown, south to Tomintoul and Gairnshiel Lodge and finish back in Ballater.

To raise awareness of the event, Managing Director of organisers WildFox Events, David Fox-Pitt, and world record-breaking cyclist and event ambassador, Mark Beaumont, recently cycled the entire 100-mile route on penny farthing bicycles in around 12 hours. This also raised money for the Mercy Corps Nepal earthquake appeal.

Cyclists from outwith the region are expected to attend and many, along with their families, will stay in local paid-for accommodation. Staff working for WildFox Events, will also take around 160 beds for two nights.

According to WildFox Events, a large number of people will be staying and using local amenities, both when training and during the event. This is expected to bring significant income and showcase the area to a whole new group of people. Businesses in the communities through which the route passes, including accommodation providers, restaurants and retail outlets are all expected to benefit from the economic spin-off. Event campsites will also be established in both Ballater and Rhynie, for those wishing to camp.

David Fox-Pitt, Managing Director of organisers WildFox Events, said:
“The route of the Etape Royale has been designed specifically to allow cyclists to take in some of the most breathtaking scenery in Scotland, right through the heart of whisky country.

“We have taken time to ensure we have engaged with as many people in the area as possible, through a series of public town hall meetings and visiting those most affected. The local response has been overwhelmingly positive and we will continue to work closely with the local communities to understand their needs and help support North-east charities and causes. We want those living on and around the route to feel a sense of ownership and pride in their involvement with the event, making it a long-term success for all involved.

“We see the potential to attract thousands of cyclists to the event, which will have a significant economic impact on tourism for the surrounding area. This part of Scotland will appeal to any cyclist and the opportunity to participate in a 65 or 100-mile closed-roads challenge in the Cairngorms is one we expect to be very popular.

“The September date is designed to be towards the end of the cycle sportive season as a finale giving the less-seasoned cyclist more time to build-up to the magic 100-mile distance.”

WildFox is working closely with communities along the route to ensure the funds raised from the event benefit local initiatives. Every rider will be contributing to local charities and causes. With representatives from Moray Council, Aberdeenshire Councils and the local communities, they have set up the Etape Royale Charity Foundation (ERCF) to distribute the money raised. The amount of money raised for local charities will depend on the number of participants - 2,500 riders could see £50,000 raised. There will also be national and international beneficiaries.

Philip Smith, VisitScotland Regional Director, said:
“I am delighted that Aberdeenshire is staging part of the first ever Etape Royale. With its incredibly scenic countryside and challenging ascents, this region is the perfect location for a closed road sportive of this kind and will really put Aberdeenshire on the cycling map!

“We would anticipate an economic boost for the region as a result of the event, as cyclists and their families enjoy a warm welcome from the wide variety of tourism businesses in Aberdeenshire.

“The visitor economy causes a ripple effect that touches every industry, business and community in the country – from laundry services to life sciences. Without tourism, many remote communities would not be sustainable and business sectors like drinks, retail or construction would be severely impacted.”

The Etape Caledonia, another cycle sportive event in Perthshire, is now in its ninth year. A 2009 report, undertaken to gauge its economic impact, highlighted that in its third year, the event, which attracted over 7,000 cyclists to Perth & Kinross, created over £900,000 in additional spend for the local area. Of the 7,773 people that took part, 88% came from outwith the region and 86% were overnight visitors. This number includes participants and spectators and gives an idea of the potential income such an event can generate for the local economy, even by year three.

More details about the event and how to register can be found at www.etaperoyale.com

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