THE chief organiser of the annual Fred Whitton event has won a top tourism award.
Paul Loftus has been named the 2014 recipient of Cumbria Tourism’s Bernard Gooch Tourism Personality of the Year Award.
Each year, Cumbria Tourism’s commercial members’ committee gives the award in recognition of an individual 'who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution over and above their normal duties' to enhance the visitor economy in Cumbria.
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Paul, a member of The Lakes Road Club which runs the Fred Whitton, works tirelessly all year round to make it happen, said Cumbria Tourism.
He does so in memory of his dear friend, whom the event is named after.
Mr Whitton died in 1998 at the age of 50 in 1998 and was himself a fellow member of The Lakes Road Club.
When ‘The Fred’ as it is also known started in 1999, just 75 riders took part.
This year due to the popularity of the event, those riding had to be chosen by ballot, with some 2000 riders selected.
The route itself is a gruelling 112-mile sportive challenge ride around the Lake District, taking in the iconic climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes.
Strictly a non-profit making venture, all proceeds going to charities like MacMillan, air ambulance and mountain rescue.
Mr Loftus said: ‘’Being presented with the Bernard Gooch Award by Cumbria Tourism is a fitting recognition for something that we haven’t set out to promote.
"The challenge is a fantastic way of remembering Fred Whitton; he was an inspiration and introduced many people to cycling during his life.
"That’s exactly what we continue to do as a club and by running ‘The Fred’ we also get to introduce people to this fantastic cycling county from all over the UK, which Fred would have loved.
"It is thanks to our army of volunteers the event has grown and because of their dedication and commitment we have been able to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity over the years, something that we are all immensely proud of and is a fitting tribute to a great friend.’’
Ian Stephens, MD of Cumbria Tourism, commented: “We are delighted to recognise Paul’s achievements both for charity and as a leading light in the outdoor industry, a true inspiration to us all.’’
Sarah Ross, new chair of Cumbria Tourism’s commercial members’ committee, added: "The committee felt that Paul as the lead figure in the organisation and running of this prestigious and internationally acclaimed challenge cycling event should be recognised for his achievements.
"Each year the ‘Fred’ also provides a boost to the Cumbrian visitor economy, both in terms of spreading the word about the cycling offer in the county, but in economic terms with visitor spend on accommodation and food and drink.
"Paul’s dedication and commitment are inspiring, especially in light of the contribution he has made in helping to raise over £650,000 for charity to date."
Recent previous winners include Cumbrian chef Simon Rogan in 2013 and writer and journalist Hunter Davies in 2012.