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Row reignites over Etape Caledonia course, with claims villagers will be “cut off”

Organisers plan to stage event in May, coronavirus permitting – but route remains unchanged from 2019 despite objections

With mass participation events cancelled across the board in the past year or so due to the coronavirus pandemic, here’s a story that really is a blast from the past – a row over the routing of a closed road sportive, in this case the Etape Caledonia.

Pre-pandemic, stories about such rows appeared regularly here on road.cc, including ones relating to Velo Birmingham & Midlands and the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, among others.

There’s no way of predicting right now whether the situation in Scotland, come this spring, will enable the Etape Caledonia to go ahead, with or without tweaks such as restricting group numbers in response to regulations in force by then.

But organisers of that and other events of course need to work on the assumption, for now, that they will – which reignites an argument about part of the Etape Caledonia course that has been ongoing for four years but lay dormant for the past 12 months due to the coronavirus crisis, with last year’s edition cancelled.

Scheduled for Sunday 16 May, the event should see up to 5,000 riders tackling routes of either 40 or 85 miles, both starting and finishing in Pitlochry in Perth & Kinross.

The longer route includes a small loop out to Glenlyon House, shown in the map below at around the 60-mile mark.

Etape Caledonia 2021 route

The Courier reports that local residents had been hoping for the event to be re-routed following last year’s enforced break – but organisers Limelight Sports say that it will continue to follow the roads used in previous editions.

According to Susan Dolan-Betney, chairwoman of Glenlyon and Loch Tay Community Council, the loop “means that Glenlyon is completely cut off from the eastern end by the road closure.

“This leaves the only access via the narrow, remote hill road from Bridge of Balgie to Edramuchty on the A827, which in May can still be covered in snow and ice.

“Apart from a very few cycling enthusiasts it is viewed by the local community as an imposition with a lot of disruption and no benefits,” she insisted.

“It prevents people getting to or from holiday cottages; the Café at Bridge of Balgie and the Studio close and lose a day’s business because it isn’t worth opening.

“It is disruptive to farmers and estate owners,” she added.

However, a spokesperson for the event, which Limelight Sports took over from 2019 from sports marketing giant IMG, confirmed there would be no changes, saying: “The 2021 route will be the same as 2019 but they are, of course, following all Scottish Government and Perth and Kinross guidance and will update participants and residents if there are any Covid related changes that they need to make.”

> New organisers for Etape Caledonia

Standard entries for May’s event are sold out, although there are still places for a premium place on the 85-mile route option, priced at £140, with full details here.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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