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Closed-road sportive Etape Caledonia is back – here's how to get a place for next year, plus a charity place for this year's edition when it returns in September

Charity places remain for 2021 closed road sportive, and club members can sign up to get a ride for next year

Etape Caledonia, the UK’s longest-established closed road sportive, will return in September with a one-off reversed route – and while general places are sold out, you can still ride for the event's official charities, Marie Curie and Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance (follow the links to find out more about how to do that). You can also sign up for next year's now by joining the organisers' LimeLight Sports Club to get front of queue for entry. Yes, it will cost you money up front, but a discount on entry fee will offset much of that.

As far as this year's edition is concerned, the few places released late last night have gone, with people who signed up to the original event allowed to carry their entries over.

Organisers expect that what is due to be the 14th edition of the sportive will be the first major sporting event held in Perthshire since the pandemic struck in March last year – and its the first event we at have seen on this scale since then, plus with the bonus of closed roads.

That forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition, which had been planned for the event’s usual May slot, and hopes to stage it in May this year were dashed by continuing COVID-19 restrictions.

With the Scottish Government set to remove all restrictions from 9 August, the event is scheduled for Sunday 19 September, the date chosen on purpose to afford the best chance of it taking place.

With more than 5,000 participants, this year’s Etape Caledonia is set to be the biggest sporting event in Perthshire since before the pandemic, giving a boost to the area’s hospitality and tourism sector.

Entrants are also encouraged to raise money for the event’s two charity partners, Marie Curie and Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance, with charity places still available.

The route reversal follows consultation between organisers LimeLight Sports, local stakeholders and Perth & Kinross Council, with mid-September being the peak of the area’s potato harvesting season.

As in previous editions, there will be an early morning departure, but the reversed, 85-mile route heads south, not north, towards Logierait, and then north towards Schiehallion via Aberfeldy.

That means that both the climb of and descent from the Schiehallion will be from the opposite direction than previous editions, then returns to Pitlochry via Loch Rannoch and Loch Tummel.

James Robinson, Limelight Sports Club managing director, 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,” he continued.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

You can also get priority access to next year’s edition, which is scheduled for 15 May 2022 by joining the LimeLight Sports Club, at a cost of £39.98 a year, or £3.98 a month.

Besides early access to the 2022 Etape Caledonia and other LimeLight Sports Club events across Europe, which will only be available to members until 11.59pm on Wednesday 27 October, benefits include discounts of £16 on the 40-mile and £30 on the 85-mile routes, plus exclusive competitions.

Our understanding is that places for next year may only be available to club members, and while we don't have exact prices for next year, the discounts are said to be in the region of 35 per cent. 

It's your money and your choice, obviously, and while we're not sure that asking people to join a club to be able to get entry to a sportive is a concept that would have flown 18 months ago.

But a lot has happened in those 18 months, with many businesses including event organisers struggling, and if the alternative is that the event disappears off the calendar for good ... ?

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Gkam84 | 2 years ago

Want a proper challenge? Come join 3 Pistes the weekend before this "charity" event...Starting in Pitlochry, finishing at Cairngorm, it forms day 2 of Tour of the Highlands, but this is sold out with layovers from last year, but still some places on 3 Pistes. Plus you get me as your mechanical support angry

Sniffer replied to Gkam84 | 2 years ago
1 like

I have done that day. Not on the sportive, but followed the route with a couple of mates. Hard day, but a good day.

TheFamilyDog replied to Gkam84 | 2 years ago

Am doing EC for the first time this year and will be my first sportive. It'll be a 'proper challenge' for me.

EK Spinner | 2 years ago

I fail to see how reversing the route of a CLOSED ROAD event on a Sunday morning helps with the potatoe harvest. 

mdavidford replied to EK Spinner | 2 years ago
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Presumably it's a rolling closure, and by reversing the route they ensure that the closures are elsewhere at the time of day when they need to be going about their potato-y business.

Glov Zaroff | 2 years ago
1 like

Anyone who has ridden the EC will know that the last section from Logierait, with its brutally sudden 13% gear cruncher for the unaware, then along the pencil thin single track road to Pitlochry with several further short sharp hills is pretty nuts at the best of times – now they want to start with this but in reverse. It’s utterly insane! There’s hardly enough room for two abreast let alone a staggered wave start, and going down the steep section to the A827 will without any doubt at all cause some nasty accidents. This year would be my eighth EC and (gets trumpet out / pats own back) I finish in the leading groups, so I’d consider myself to be a pretty experienced rider on this course, but will I f*ck be riding it in this direction! One of my mates messaged me when he heard about the revers route. It simply said ‘Logierait!’. Totally sums it up. The fluorescent green SAA chopper could have a busy day on the 19th…

Chris Hayes replied to Glov Zaroff | 2 years ago

Is that better or worse than the Devil's Elbow...which was distressing...

Glov Zaroff replied to Chris Hayes | 2 years ago

The Devil's Elbow at Glenshee? That's a whole different world of pain!

Chris Hayes replied to Glov Zaroff | 2 years ago

No... the one in the Brecon Beacons... This just about sums it up... I don't think I've ever been envious of compact chainsets before... I thought that they just slowed you down...

I'm appalled to learn that there might be another one!

Sniffer replied to Chris Hayes | 2 years ago

I agree with Glov.  Not done this event for many years, but have ridden it a couple of times.

The Logierait climb (in the normal direction) is not particularly special, but you come gently downhill on a wide road, often in big groups.  All the speed is stripped off with a sharp turn.  Half your group is in the wrong gear when you have a short, but sharp rise straight after the turn.

Riders unable to hold theri line and people putting a foot down can make it feel like the riskiest part of the course.

Not got my head around how it will feel with a big group going the other way.  Doubt it will feel good.

Glov Zaroff replied to Sniffer | 2 years ago
1 like

HEADS UP - just had an update from the EC organisers - it seems this section was a red flag when they did the risk assessment of the reverse route and there's actually a new bit of road that they'll use to avoid Logierait. Looks like it's a road for the Duntanlich mine (I never knew it was there!). I'm still a wee bit dubious of the start, but this change is good news!

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