Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 16:07 UK

Roads anger over major cycle race

Cyclists (generic) Picture: Eye Wire
Organisers expected 5,000 spectators to watch the event

More than 2,000 cyclists have been biking 81 miles around the roads of Highland Perthshire, despite local anger over road closures.

Etape Caledonia organisers expected 5,000 people to watch the race, which begins and ends in Pitlochry.

Round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont was due to take part, as was Aggie MacKenzie from How Clean is Your House? However, some residents said they believed road closures would negatively affect businesses.

The Etape Caledonia is the only cycle event in the UK where all the roads the riders race along are closed off.

Reduced time

Jo Dytch, from the Etape Caledonia, told the BBC Scotland news website that Highland Perthshire was the ideal site for it.

"It's a perfect natural route for a cycling event, because it provides the distance you need and it provides the challenge," she said.

"It's got a few good hill climbs in it, but it's also around two of the most scenic lochs in Scotland and it's got great terrain.

"The distance is achievable for someone who's not cycled before but wants to take it on and train really hard for it, but it also really challenges those who are good."

Peter Hounam with placard
Groups of local protesters will wave placards at the event

In response to local anger last year, organisers have reduced the amount of time each stretch of the route will be shut.

They have told participants they must pedal faster this time round, the event has been moved from June to May, and it starts an hour earlier.

Local groups are also putting on a series of activities, such as cooking demonstrations, music performances, a battle re-enactment, clowns and a novelty bike show, to make the most of the number of people who will be in the area.

However, that has not calmed the anger of residents from the Anti-Closed Road Event (Acre) group.

Spokesman Peter Hounam said: "Visitors don't really want to come when they know some of the roads are closed.

"But it's not just businesses that are joining Acre, we have ordinary citizens who are angry that their freedom of movement is being restricted for a commercial event.

"Also, of course, the churches are up in arms because it's being held on a Sunday, and a lot of their parishioners can't get to the churches."

The group believes the road closures are unlawful and are considering taking legal action for compensation.

The Etape Caledonia was due to start at 0700 BST and finish at about 1500 BST.

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