Borders duo get on their bikes for Poppyscotland

Kirsteen McGrory (left) and Mhairi Middleton (right)
Kirsteen McGrory (left) and Mhairi Middleton (right)

More than 900 riders took to the roads and hills on Sunday, as part of the annual Poppyscotland Sportive cycling event which will help raise tens of thousands of pounds for Scotland’s leading Armed Forces charity.

Among the riders were a pair of full-time mums who had travelled up from the Borders to take part.

Good friends Kirsteen McGrory, 45, and Mhairi Middleton, 41, travelled up from Lauder and admitted that they have not done a great deal of cycling in the past let alone completed a Sportive.

The pair were tackling the short route (47 miles) and admitted: “We’re not cyclists! We’ve never done anything like this before, but part of the appeal was that it’s for Poppyscotland.

“It has been a tough route so far, but very enjoyable and with beautiful views. Everyone has been so encouraging and it’s very well organised. Having the piper playing really helped us get up the Heugh!”

Mhairi, who even had to borrow a bike for the event, is raising money for Poppyscotland, while Kirsteen has put in a donation.

They added: “The Poppyscotland Sportive is at a really good time of year as it allows cyclists to train in the summer. We would definitely recommend it to others – it’s sociable and for a very worthwhile cause. It’s really good for keeping fit, and when you come along you get a very friendly and encouraging welcome.”

Poppyscotland’s Sportive, which first took place in 2014, gave riders a choice of three routes – 47, 68 or 102 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 once more sponsored by Fred Olsen Renewables, again featured the 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. Over the past six years, more than £210,000 has been raised, which goes towards our life-changing support of Scotland’s Armed Forces community that we provide.

“Money raised from events like the Sportive has allowed Poppyscotland to launch our new Welfare Support Service, with a dedicated team across the country to help veterans on a local level, including East Lothian and the Scottish Borders.

“Our ambition to reach even more veterans over the coming year is reliant on our ability to raise more money. While the Poppyscotland Sportive is great fun, the fundraising our amazing cyclists undertake makes a life-changing difference to the Armed Forces community to ensure that we are behind them. Always.”

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.”