South Ayrshire has begun work to create Scotland's first ever 'road cycling park' with the launch of a new website designed to promote enjoyment of the area.
The site, www.ayrshirealps.org, has been created with support from the local council, and the aim is to emulate trail riding centres but on the road, with a network of signed hill climbs, complete with maps and riding ideas, supported by organised events.
16 climbs, from the mildly exerting to the fully exhausting, are available within a 15 mile area - which is renowned among local riders for its lack of traffic and beautiful scenery.
It's also a favoured spot for the pros to get in a bit of off-season training; Mark Cavendish and Chris Boardman have been spotted riding there.
Information is available on the site of all the climbs including downloadable GPS files, journey planning details, details on local facilities and the option for cyclists to log on and register each climb they complete to complete for the KOM.
It's also full of invaluable local knowledge, including this gem: "In much of the park area the mobile signal is very poor. Those in the know will insist than you can get two bars when standing by the third pillar under the awning of the McCandlish Hall in Straiton (providing it is not raining) but otherwise it is a bit hit and miss."
Mapping is provided in the form of a ski-style 'piste map' - easy for even the most inexperienced navigator to read and pointing out the most exciting areas to visit.
South Ayrshire Councillor John McDowall said: “The site showcases the fantastic cycling in and around the South Carrick area, with 15 categorised climbs that will inspire people to get out their bikes, settle into their saddles and experience the Ayrshire Alps. Cycling is an environmentally friendly way to travel whether it is for competitive cycling, to improve mental or physical health or to and from work.”
The concept for the park came from Christopher Johnson, a local race organiser. He told us: “I was speaking to partners in the Council about creating a legacy from the cycling events in the South Carrick area when it struck me that there is nowhere else in Scotland that offers the same fantastic road cycling.
"Within a fifteen mile radius we have an amazing selection of testing hill climbs, on quiet roads and in beautiful scenery − far more than even most local cyclists are aware of. It is not unusual for me to cycle 40 miles in the park and come across less than 10 vehicles – that’s one for every four miles travelled.”
To celebrate the launch of the Ayrshire Alps, the Ayr Roads Cycling Club will host a cycling festival on 17 and 18 August 2013, to include road racing, audax, and a youth race in Girvan.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.