Borderers gear up for Peebles leg of tour

James McCallum, Tour of Britain cycling race.
James McCallum, Tour of Britain cycling race.

TOP Scottish cyclist James McCallum is urging Borders cyclists to get in gear and sign up for the 2011 Prostrate Cancer Charity Tour Ride.

On Sunday, September 11, the Tour of Britain, the UK’s largest professional cycling event and the country’s biggest live sporting event, is returning to Peebles with 96 riders from 16 teams competing. And, the week before, on Sunday, September 4, amateur cyclists will be able to ride the tour ride over a 175km pro, a 70km challenge route, as well as a 1km family run. All fundraising proceeds will benefit the Prostate Cancer Charity.

Former Commonwealth Games, British and Scottish champion McCallum was in the area last week to promote both events and told TheSouthern: “I train round here quite a lot and consider myself a local. It’s just 25 miles away from where I live in Edinburgh and the countryside and quiet roads make for perfect cycling.

“It could be a pretty tough day especially if the wind gets up as it has done recently, but I will also be biased about the Scottish stages and think it will be a great send-off for the tour.

“When you’re actually riding the race all you are thinking about is completing the stage getting to bed and getting started the next again day. The tour ride is a great way for people to try it out at their own pace and just enjoy it. Of course they can also go at full pelt and experience what the pro riders feel, but that is entirely up to them.”

Councillor Vicky Davidson, SBC’s executive member for economic development, also gave her backing to the event.

She said: “The Borders is a world-class cycling location and this is the perfect opportunity to showcase the Scottish Borders as a prime cycling destination and allow local cyclists to experience what some of the best road racers in the world do and then go along the following week and watch them compete.

“In 2009 the economic development service worked with a number of local businesses and groups to ensure that the Borders capitalised on the event. To have the Grand Depart in the Scottish Borders is very exciting and we want to capitalise on the economic and business benefits.”

Stage one of the Tour of Britain will take some of the world’s top professionals in Britain’s biggest cycling event 170km from Peebles to Dumfries over a challenging but scenic route.

And, starting from the attractive market town of Peebles, the charity challenge takes the same route, though not necessarily at the same pace. Riders head along the Tweed Valley to Innerleithen for a flat opening few kilometres to the ride before turning south towards the Ettrick Valley.

The roads begin to narrow and become more challenging for most rural section, where local cyclists will be able to enjoy peace and tranquillity while pitting themselves against the challenge of a Tour of Britain stage.

Passing alongside St Mary’s Loch, the route climbs beyond Megget Reservoir before descending rapidly via Talla Reservoir to Tweedsmuir where the route rejoins the River Tweed.

Heading into the Lowther Hills the ride passes first the source of the Tweed at Tweed’s Well and then the dramatic Devil’s Beef Tub just north of Moffat.

After the ascents, descents and twists of the early section of the ride this section flattens out, heading along Annandale and into Dumfries and Galloway.

A rolling run then takes riders into Dumfries itself, for the first sight of the finish venue.

But, just as it will be for the professionals, the stage isn’t over yet, with an attractive and lumpy 100km loop taking riders out along the River Nith estuary to the coast of the Solway Firth before doubling back through Dalbeattie Forest.

Passing close to some of the small lochs dotting the countryside outside of Dumfries riders will now be nearing the end of their ride and approaching Dock Park in the town.

So, prepare the smiles, straighten up the jersey and get ready to pass underneath The Tour of Britain finish gantry and celebrate riding the opening stage, just as the professionals will do to kick off Britain’s biggest professional cycle race.

A shorter Challenge ride will also take place over the day’s final loop, starting and finishing in Dumfries and travelling over rolling roads in Dumfries & Galloway to give a taste of how the opening day will pan out.

The start time for the Prostrate Cancer Charity Tour Ride is 7.30am, entry fee: £35, age limit: 16+ (accompanied by an adult if under 18).

For more information or to register go to http://www.tourride.co.uk/scotland.asp