Around 5,200 cyclists will head to the Highlands this weekend for the hotly anticipated Etape Loch Ness. The sportive, which circles the famous loch, is now in its fourth year and has quickly become one of the most popular events in the Scottish cycling calendar.

And as the participants traverse the course, they’ll pass through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. The 66-mile route includes the daunting King of the Mountain stage – a challenging 4.8 mile climb which rises to 380m – which will test the mettle of all participants.

Event director Malcolm Sutherland says, “This year’s Etape Loch Ness is the biggest yet, and we’re thrilled that so many cyclists will be arriving this weekend to see for themselves what the Highlands has to offer the cycling community.

“Sportives have become incredibly popular in recent years, allowing cyclists to compete not against each other but with themselves – attempting to top their past achievements. Couple that with the draw of Loch Ness and enjoying some of the most stunning scenery in the country on traffic-free roads, and it becomes easy to see the appeal of participating.

“Inverness will be abuzz with excitement and anticipation over the weekend, and we hope that the public will once again venture out to cheer on the participants, in the villages along the route and at the finish line at Eden Court Theatre on the River Ness.

“As the cyclists cross the line, they’ll be given a Harry Gow dream ring as well as a medal and goody bag – a treat we’re convinced that they’ll have earned.”

The dream ring – a cream-filled sweet bun topped with icing – is baker and event partner Harry Gow’s signature cake, and will serve as the perfect encouragement to get participants over the line.

The first wave of riders is due to set off on Sunday morning at 6.15am from Bught Park in the Highland capital. The fastest riders home are expected to cross the finishing line at Eden Court from 9am onwards, with the majority of riders arriving before 1pm.

Etape Loch Ness is supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate. Paul Bush OBE, director of events at VisitScotland, says, “We are delighted to be supporting Etape Loch Ness again this year, as part of our ongoing commitment to cycling. Scotland is the perfect stage for events, and I look forward to seeing thousands of participants and spectators make their way to the Highlands for the Etape, in what promises to be an action-packed weekend.”

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The Scottish Highland Experience. Surrounding events, race information, course map and signup.Inverness Half Marathon