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 road.cc 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 has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.