“I’d always wondered where this road went,” I say as we turn out of Peebles and onto a stretch of single-track.
I’m pedalling alongside my guide for the day, Neil Dalgleish, director of TweedLove
, the Tweed Valley festival of all things cycling that runs from the 24th
of May to the 8th
We’re on a cracking valley climb. The sun is out, the sky blue; fluffy white sheep pepper the verdant hillsides. Biking bliss.
I’m previewing the Skinny
, a 45-mile sportive that’s new to TweedLove. The £15 entry fee gets riders a free feed station and official timing along the marked and marshalled course.
“It’s the kind of route experienced riders will enjoy and feel in their legs but also the sort that other folk could spend longer tackling,” Neil explains. “They could stop at places for coffee and make a day of it. It’s welcoming to everybody.”
Peebles Cycling Club’s local knowledge and passion has gone into selecting the route. A fast descent, another climb and we cross the Tweed. As the tailwind scoots us on passed Stobo, I’m already sold on sportives, thinking ahead to August’s Tour o’ the Borders
The Skinny (Saturday 7th of June) is just part of a burgeoning, 40-event festival. There will be rides on-road and off, those for experts and novices, family events and even a film night.
We’re soon heading uphill out of Broughton. Neil’s keen to talk about the highlight of this year’s bash. In landing a round of the mountain bike EnduroWorld Series
May to Sunday 1st
of June), TweedLove has come up trumps.
“With 600 competitors it will be the biggest enduro race in Britain to date,” Neil enthuses. “On the start list so far we have 14 current or ex world champions – I think that’s a first in Britain. It’s such a star-studded race.”
And it’s not just for the professionals.
“Your average weekend warrior can race against the world’s elite. Enduro is a really inclusive part of the sport … like what most people do at the weekends on the trails around Peebles — they meet up with their mates, pedal up the hill and have a great time coming back down. That’s what makes the festival and the event such a great fit … we share their ethos.”
That inclusive ethos permeates TweedLove:
“We’d encourage folk to just come down and have a go. A lot of the kids and family events are either free or really cheap to take part in. There’s everything from balance-bike stuff to things for primary school kids and beyond.”
Another inclusive example is the Glentress Seven trail race (Saturday 24thMay), which Neil describes as, “pretty competitive but also really friendly. It’s ridden in teams so you’ll have riders sitting having a coffee and cake whilst their teammates are off out riding.”
We’re now cruising through Biggar and mention of cake makes me reach for an energy bar.
With TweedLove entering its fifth year, I’m guessing the Borders folk are supportive?
“The festival has grown pretty quickly but it has been like pushing at an open door. There is so much goodwill in the community, so many people who want to see things happen.”
Neil forecasts competitor and spectator numbers totalling around 12,000 and a positive economic impact of
around £1.25million. However, as he explains, it’s about more than having a successful festival:
“Hosting the Enduro World Series has put Peebles on a list with Whistler, places in the Alps, the Italian Riviera, Colorado and Chile. This is now officially recognised as one of the best places in the world to ride, so the long-term impact of increased visitor numbers is going to be colossal.”
Talking of colossal, I’m out of puff, having just crested the Dreva, a local cycling legend.
Back on the road to Peebles and the Cycling Club’s collective genius is again showing its worth: a sneaky left and we’re down by the river; over a footbridge, up a steep gravel climb and we hit stretch of dusty farm track. My grin grows another inch.
“Just one more climb,” Neil says for the umpteenth time as we whizz back along the valley. Sadly, this time it is the last.
Back in Peebles, Neil points over to what’s currently a grassy expanse of riverbank, but will imminently be the Enduro encampment.
“Over there’ll be a huge event village and expo, with food stalls, a big stage and start ramp, and loads of the biggest bike companies from all over the world — like a music festival, but with athletes. I do sometimes find it hard to believe that it’s actually going to happen here.” He pauses as we swig from our water bottles. “It will be absolutely buzzing.”