Grasmere to become venue for Lake District cycle challenge

THE Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge will be moving to a new venue next year in a bid to accommodate more riders.

Every May the 112-mile charity cycle sportive has attracted more and more participants to the start and finish in Coniston.

Organisers say it has now outgrown the village and in order to provide better facilities it has been decided that the new event headquarters will be Grasmere Sports Ground.

“We know that there are a lot of riders out there wanting to ride the event next year, and fortunately we can accommodate some more riders at Grasmere,” said organiser Paul Lofthouse.

“By moving our venue it will enable us to become bigger still; providing suitable car parking facilities for all - whatever the weather, refreshments including a bar, trade stalls and fun for all the family over what will become a weekend of major cycling celebration in the heart of the Lake District.

The challenge started with 70 riders in 1999 and last year there were 1,750 taking part with the event raising £625,000 for charity over the past 14 years, with most going to Macmillan Nurses.

The gruelling ride takes in all of the Lake District mountain passes - Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose - and is considered to be one of the toughest rides in the country.

The event is credited as being the first cycle sportive in the country and there are now over 600.

“In a small way the ride started a cycling revolution,” said Mr Lofthouse.

It is held in memory of Fred Whitton who died of cancer aged 49 in 1998. He was an extremely popular member of the Lakes Road Club and was club secretary.

He was also organiser of the Lakes Road Club Easter three-day which attracted many of the UK’s top riders.

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