1st October 2018 Michael Fahy

More than 850 riders took to the roads and hills of East Lothian as part of the annual Poppyscotland Sportive cycling event which will ultimately help to raise tens of thousands of pounds for Scotland’s leading Armed Forces charity.

Poppyscotland’s Sportive, which first took place in 2014 and was voted one of the top three Sportives in Scotland last year by Sportive.com, gave riders a choice of three routes – 45, 66 or 100 miles –  to suit a variety of levels of experience and fitness. All three took participants along the beautiful East Lothian coast and then back though its stunning hills and countryside, with the 100-mile circuit also taking riders over the challenging Lammermuir Hills and into the Scottish Borders.

This year’s event, which was sponsored by Fred Olsen Renewables, featured the special Centenary addition of timed hill climb just past North Berwick, which allowed riders to take on a short sharp hill climb and battle it out to become the ‘King’ or ‘Queen of the Heugh’.

Organiser Katriona Harding said: “Poppyscotland Sportive is one of the most important awareness-raising and fundraising events in our calendar. In 2017, almost £50,000 was raised to help with our life-changing support of Scotland’s Armed Forces community and we are hoping to smash that total this year, especially as sign-ups are up by more than 25 per cent compared to 2017.”

One of 859 riders was Andrew Petrie, 72, who was taking part in his fourth Sportive. Andrew, who lives in Edinburgh, has strong familial ties to the Armed Forces, with a grandson of 20 about to begin a career in the Army and a son-in-law having also served in the Army.

Andrew, who was tackling the short route, said: “The Poppyscotland Sportive is great. The countryside that you cycle through is lovely and the guys that take part are brilliant. I’d recommend the Sportive to anyone of any standard. Everyone should have a go!”

The retired civil engineer is an avid cyclist and gets out and about on his bike at least three times a week — despite the fact that he has two new knees. He added: “I am a strong supporter of Poppyscotland and I hope to raise around £150 today to help the charity. I know veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and I think of them when I’m taking part in the Sportive.”

Another Andrew taking part in the event was Andrew Ralton, 51, from Prestonpans. Andrew was riding in his fifth Sportive and pedalling on the medium route. Andrew, who works at Midlothian Council, said: “It is a fantastic event and exceptionally well organised. The atmosphere and camaraderie are great. The countryside you cycle through is beautiful and I urge anyone to take part in the Sportive as it’s for a great cause. Just go for it! When you get out in your bike you will be surprised how much you can do.”

Katriona added: “We would once again like to thank the cycling community, Police Scotland, East Lothian Council and Scottish Borders Council for all of their amazing support, and the local community for their patience and support. I can say with confidence that the Poppyscotland Sportive proved to be a positive and enjoyable experience for all of our fantastic fundraisers.”

Best known for running the iconic Scottish Poppy Appeal, Poppyscotland reaches out to those who have served, those still serving, and their families at times of crisis and need by offering vital, practical advice, assistance and funding. The charity believes that no veteran should live without the prospect of employment, good health and a home, and we all have part to play in achieving this.