Cyclists saddle up for a grand day out in country

Preparing for the cycle day, from left, Joshua Dendy, 11, Lindsey Smith, Caroline Dendy, Stuart Carvel and Heather Dendy, nine. Picture: OX69248 Cliff Hide

Preparing for the cycle day, from left, Joshua Dendy, 11, Lindsey Smith, Caroline Dendy, Stuart Carvel and Heather Dendy, nine. Picture: OX69248 Cliff Hide Buy this photo

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

AMATEUR cyclists wanting to be the next Bradley Wiggins or Chris Hoy can take part in a festival of cycling at Blenheim Palace this weekend.

About 1,000 people will compete in a timed 60-mile or 100-mile Cotswolds course beginning and ending at the Woodstock palace as part of a “sportive” – an organised mass participation cycle ride – on Sunday.

Children and parents will also have the chance to ride around the World Heritage Site’s 2,000-acre grounds in the second annual family cycle day.

The new sportive event - promoted as a replacement for the former Bike Blenheim race – will take in a series of rolling climbs through Charlbury, Burford and Gloucestershire.

Personal trainer Caroline Dendy, 38, from Steventon, near Abingdon, will take part in the longer course and believes cycling has become one of Britain’s favourite leisure activities.

The married mum-of-two said: “Sitting on a saddle for four hours isn’t everyone’s idea of fun but we will get to see a lot and the views are beautiful.

“There seems to be more interest because of our Olympic athletes but the sportives have been rearing their heads in the past five years or so.

“Everything was very much running focused but then triathlons came along and people have got on their bikes.”

The family event last year replaced the annual Bike Blenheim event, which attracted up to 15,000 visitors – including Paralympic gold medallist Sarah Storey – but was cancelled in 2012 due to a lack of funding.

But the sportive event, organised by event management firm Kilimanjaro Live, offers the first chance for mass participation cycling again. Organiser Andy Townsend said: “The British success in the Tour de France and the Olympics has made a big difference – Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Chris Hoy are all big names.

“I’ve been riding a road bike for 25 years and the difference now in comparison to even six or seven years ago is amazing.

“It’s a great way of keeping fit for people who are a bit older and can’t play football or contact sports anymore.

“People say that cycling has become the new golf as a way of socialising.

“This event is a great way to get people cycling where they don’t have to worry about traffic and can enjoy going for a ride with friends through the Cotswolds.”

On-course marshals, mechanical support, first aid staff and feed stations will be available during the route.

There are no age restrictions for the family cycle day, but children must wear appropriate safety equipment and be escorted by adults.

Gates open at 6am, with the sportive event beginning at 8am. Visitors are free to cycle in the family event at their own leisure from 10.30am.

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