Oban Sportive 2021 goes the distance

Young piper Callum MacInnes leads out the competitors from Oban Distillery on to George Street. The riders, readying themselves for the start. Photograph: Kevin McGlynn

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Action-packed cycling challenge Oban Sportive went ahead at the weekend attracting 180 entrants and raising thousands of pounds for charities.

The gruelling but rewarding Cruachan Hill Climb on the Saturday, a timed event over a 2.7-mile stretch rising up 1,044ft to the famous hollow mountain dam, with an average gradient of 6.9 per cent, had a record entry of 60 so-called mountain goats.

Sunday’s main event covered an 87-mile route around Scotland’s longest loch, Loch Awe, and a shorter, but no easier, 56-mile course around Loch Avich. Drizzle was no obstacle for the course-goers.

Strong performances were put in by Craig Donald, Bill Sturgeon, Kate MacKellaig and Caroline Booth on the short course, and Andre Van, Leighn Chambers, Marie Meldrum and Jenny Brown on the longer route.

The events raised about £6,000 which will go to good causes across North Argyll.

The first Oban Sportive was in 2012, but Covid saw the May 2020 event postponed until September 2020, then again until May 2021 before finally going ahead this month.

The atmosphere was buzzing on Sunday when cyclists got a good send-off from piper Calum MacInnes and spectators from under Oban Distillery’s iconic archway – the best venue organisers said they could wish for in town.

‘The feedback we’ve had has all been positive, no negatives. They can’t wait to come back for more and are recommending it to their friends which is great for us and great for the town’s economy because they will all add to its pot!’ said one of the event organisers and North Argyll Cycle Club (NACC) member, Steven Groom.

Argyll and Bute Council helped smooth the way for the event, sweeping the route and filling any potholes.

‘The road was in the best condition it has ever been,’ added Mr Groom.

The event’s thank you list is extensive, including sponsors Oban Distillery, Kames fish farm, Aggregate Industries  and BID4Oban. Leslie Bike Shop from Glenrothes were  on hand to help with any last-minute repairs and had five riders take on the cycling challenge.

One participants turned the challenge into a weekend trip from Yorkshire, arriving in time for the Park Run from Ganavan before taking on the Cruachan Hill Climb then Sunday’s long haul.

Among others were Bill Sturgeon who rides with NACC and travelled from home in Arran to join in. Alister Jackson, a regular at Oban Sportive was joined by his nephew Peter Scott from Newbury to complete the short course.

Mr Jackson said: ‘It was a very well organised event with fantastic food stops and friendly, helpful marshalls.

Cyclist Sean Jamieson said: ‘I have been doing the Oban Sportive for six years now and the courses are getting better, the feed stops are getting better, the organisation is getting better – I just need to get better!

‘Scenery, terrain, road surfaces and comradery are what make the Oban Sportive. We just need to sort out how to organise the weather now!’