Hundreds of people turned out in Stonehaven to see some of the world’s top cyclists set off on the final stage of the Tour of Britain.
The last leg of the endurance race will take the 120 riders through Aberdeenshire before finishing near the beach in Aberdeen later this afternoon.
In Stonehaven, the streets were lined with fans young and old keen to catch a glimpse of the action.
The event brought life back to the north-east town following 18 months of restrictions, imposed by the pandemic.
Tour of France legend Mark Cavendish – who is leading the Deceuninck Quick-Step team with reigning UCI world champion Julian Alaphilippe – delighted fans by signing autographs with his daughter before they set off.
Speaking on stage before the event, Cavendish joked about the temperatures – far cooler than when the tour set off from Cornwall on September 5.
He said: “We like a sprint, will be nice sprinting along the front along the sea, but we’ve got that climb in the middle.
“We got a strong team and I know there will be fans there, thanks for coming out. It’s so cold up here, how do you get out the house? But, thanks everyone for coming out and hopefully I’ll get some support there which will boost me on. We’ll see what happens.”
‘It’s fantastic for the area’
The crowd cheered as the riders left Stonehaven, with bag pipe music filling the air.
The streets were filled with an array of colours as cyclists whizzed out of the town past the caravan park, ready to head out into Deeside.
Cyclists sprinted off the starting line past screaming fans, lining the streets near Baird Park, before descending through the north-east town.
Duncan Grassick, from Catterline, said he was thrilled the Tour of Britain had finally made it as far north.
He said: “I think it’s fantastic for the area and it’s a real treat for us.
“It’s great to see, we’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve been in Aberdeenshire for 25 years now so it’s just nice to have it up here. Hopefully it encourages everyone to get out on their own bikes.”
Barbara and Alan Jones, from North Yorkshire, added a day onto their holiday in Stonehaven to see the race.
They said: “We are actually on holiday and we stayed an extra day just to see this. We actually have been following the race on TV and we follow the Tour de France.”
Isla Long, 17, is a member of Deeside Cycling and said it was inspiring to see all her heroes in action.
“It’s pretty cool and you got to see all the people that you see on TV in real life and the bagpipe music was pretty cool,” she said.
“ I’m in complete awe, I love cycling. Because I’ve grown up watching them and to see them where I live is really exciting.”
Isla was not the only keen cyclist at the event, with other youngsters also donning their full cycling gear to wave off their heroes.
Riders will take on the Cairn O’Mount as they head towards Banchory, Strachan and Westhill before turning towards Aberdeen during the 107-mile last leg.
Families are already gathering at the beach to welcome them back, and are also enjoying a packed programme of entertainment at the Beach Esplanade, which runs until 4.30pm.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy stunt shows, displays, a pedal powered cinema and the climbing wall at the Getabout Activity Village.