Don't hang about, they won't last long...

An extra 200 places for the inaugural Etape Loch Ness sportive will be released at midday tomorrow, Tuesday February 11.

The first 1000 places of the closed-road event were snapped up in hours when the event was launched in November last years, so organisers Caledonian Concepts expect the newly-available places to go quickly.

The only way to get a spot in the extra 200 will be to sign up for the Etape Loch Ness alert emails. Subscribers will get an email in before the places going on sale, containing a link to the entry page.

Event director Malcolm Sutherland said: “The speed at which the initial places sold out took us completely by surprise.

"We always knew that it would be a popular event – our years of experience in organising large-scale sporting events indicated that there would be significant demand - but we never expected it to capture the imagination of people in the way that it did.”

The 67-mile ride comprises a lap of the famous lake, starting and finishing in Inverness. The route takes in the north side of the loch, first passing through Drumnadrochit, Invermoriston and Fort Augustus before looping round to the southern side.

The event’s official charity is Macmillan Cancer Support and the extra places will only be available to riders who pledge to raise money for the charity.

Malcolm Sutherland said: “We ask that people raise a minimum of £100 for this charity, which supports people with cancer and their families across the Highlands and the rest of the UK.

Caledonian Concepts has been in negotiation with a number of agencies to get permission to increase the field to 1200 riders, but there will be no more this year.

Malcolm Sutherland said: “I can confidently say that no further places will be released for the 2014 event, however we feel there is now clear evidence to show that Etape Loch Ness will need to grow in future in order to accommodate the level of demand.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.