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WATCH: Business leaders cheered off at start of 500-mile cycle ride targetting £300,000 for Maggie's Highland cancer support centre

By Val Sweeney

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The cyclists set off on the Maggie's 500 cycle challenge.
The cyclists set off on the Maggie's 500 cycle challenge.

A 40-strong team of Highland business leaders have embarked on a gruelling 500-mile cycle ride which is set to raise £300,000 for the Maggie’s Highlands cancer support centre.

As the cyclists set off on the five-day challenge today from the centre in the grounds of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, they had already smashed their previous fundraising targets of £150,000, £175,000 and £200,000.

The event, which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic, will see riders tackle a series of challenging routes through the Cairngorms National Park and climb 30,000ft – more than the height of Everest.

The route has been planned by Paul Easto and his team at Wilderness Scotland and the most challenging day will involve a 104-miles circuit with over 8000ft climbing over the two highest roads in the UK.

Co-lead organiser and participant, Willie Gray, who is managing director of Ark Estates, said everyone had been training hard and fundraising even harder.

"If we can reach £300,000 it would be an incredible effort in the current climate and shows the incredible generosity of the Highland community," he said.

"Because a group of generous sponsors have helped us cover the event expenses, every single penny raised from this event will go to Maggie’s Highlands at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness to help support local people living with cancer and their families."

Highland Industrial Supplies, O’Brien Homes, McLeod and Aitken, Focus Vehicle Rental, Graham and Sibbald, Handlesbanken, Wilderness Scotland and IBI Joiners are event sponsors.

Ex-Commonwealth cyclist, Kenny Riddle, of Bikes of Inverness, who is a co-organiser and participant, said it had been inspiring to see the journey of some participants from when they first met to launch the event two years ago.

"Taking on a 500 mile challenge like this in just five days in an incredible act of endurance for a professional cyclist let along an amateur," he said.

"Doing 100 miles in a day is do-able but to get on your bike every day for the next four days and do another 100 miles each day in some of the most challenging road cycling terrain in the UK will take a great degree of determination."

The group, which will return to Inverness on Friday, has received good luck messages from Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, Giro d’Italia winner and leading UK cyclist Tao Geoghegan Hart, Olympic gold-medal winning track cyclist Katie Archibald British paralympic cyclist and adventurer, Karen Darke, long-distance cyclist and author Mark Beaumont, endurance cyclist and round the world record holder Jenny Graham, professional downhill mountain bike athlete Greg Williamson, ex-Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County manager, John Hughes and Hebrides band Peat and Diesel.

Videos can be seen on the Maggies Cycle 500 social media pages on Facebook and instagram.

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/maggies500cycle

WATCH: Peat & Diesel get behind 500-mile cycle challenge

Business leaders eye £200K target for Maggie's Highland

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