Aberdeen’s moment in the cycling spotlight may have been postponed for a year, but that has not stopped one of Scotland’s greatest ever cyclists paying a visit as part of an epic coastal challenge.
Philippa York, who had enormous success in international competitions during the 1980s, spent the night in the city after completing the second leg of a 16-day cycle around the coast of Scotland.
She was joined by Hugh Roberts and Robin Young, who are completing an even bigger challenge – cycling the entire coastline of Great Britain.
The peloton’s arrival in Aberdeen carried particular resonance, as the city was set to be the end point for this year’s Tour of Britain, an event that was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
The race, which was set to begin in Cornwall and work its way north, will now instead be held in September 2021.
Hugh, the founder of Sweetspot which runs the Tour of Britain, and his friend Robin are leading a pared-back version of the Great Tour, a non-competitive cycle beginning and ending on the Isle of Wight.
Philippa, who achieved top four finished in all three cycling Grand Tours between 1984 and 1987 competing as Robert Millar, is accompanying the pair for the 1,650km Scottish part of the journey, beginning in Edinburgh two days ago and ending in Ayr on August 4.
Yesterday’s cycle took them from Dundee, past Stonehaven, and then into Aberdeen city centre.
Philippa said: “It’s a good way of keeping the awareness up, and promoting cycling and good health, and the mental wellbeing of everybody.
“Because of the pandemic, people have been stuck at home with nothing to do.
“Now we’re seeing a lot of families out on bikes, and they can come and join us if they want.”
She is taking part to raise funds and awareness for Julia’s House, a children’s hospice in Dorset and Wiltshire.
She said: “It’s quite heartbreaking to go there, and you think you’ve got aches and pains but you see people who are properly in a bit of trouble – it’s nice to help people.”
Robin said returning to the city brought back some pleasant childhood memories.
He said: “I remember coming to watch Aberdeen play Celtic with my dad and my grandad, fifty years ago probably – I don’t remember the score!
“This will be the first time I’ve been here since.”
Aberdeen’s hosting of the final stage of the 2020 Tour of Britain was intended to crown a series of very successful years for cycling in the city, after its streets were used for OVO Tour Series races in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The Tour Series, also organised by Sweetspot, was a great success in the city, with cycling fans travelling to the city to watch stars of the sport racing.
Aberdeen was also set to host the start of the 2021 Tour of Britain – whether that will also be postponed by a year to the 2022 race is reportedly still to be decided.