Bear escape inspires new Western Isles cycling event

Kenny MacDonald and his grandson Leo Kenneth recently covered 20 miles of the course on the west side of North Uist
Kenny MacDonald and his grandson Leo Kenneth recently covered 20 miles of the course on the west side of North Uist

A new cycling challenge is to be held in the Uists this summer.

The ‘Herculean Sportive’ will offer cyclists two challenges — to pedal either 70 or 90 miles throughout North and South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay and Berneray.

The event, which takes place on 13th August, is the brainchild of Kenny MacDonald, the deputy head teacher at Sgoil Lionacleit, who has been a keen cyclist for many years.

Skye’s Cuillin Wheels Club and Johnston Wheelers from Renfrewshire — two clubs with which Kenny has been heavily involved — will help organise the new cycle.

By taking part, Kenny said cyclists would be following in the footsteps of Hercules the bear who in 1980 famously ran wild in the Uists for three weeks before being captured.

He explained: “A sportive is an event where riders set their own challenges. It’s not competitive, and the only prize on offer for the fastest finishers will be prestige.

“We hope that the event can help attract cyclists to see a bit of the Uists. Many cyclists do the Butt to Barra route, but they are just passing through — they miss some of the best parts.”

The 90-mile route, the ‘Herculean Mor’, starts in North Uist and will see riders cycle through Grimsay and Benbecula and on to South Uist before returning north to Berneray. ‘Herculean Beag’ riders will cover 70 miles through North Uist, Grimsay and Benbecula.

Organiser Kenny has been actively involved in cycling for 50 years — first with Johnstone Wheelers as a rider, coach and then an honorary life member. In 2009 he relocated to Skye, where he helped to establish the Cuillin Wheels team.
He hopes that the new event can grow in popularity, and eventually expand to cover more of South Uist and Eriskay.

Anyone interested in taking part in the cycle — entry costs just £16, but would require two nights’ overnight accommodation if travelling from the mainland — should visit the event website

The Herculean Sportive will also be used as a fundraiser for the One Million Miles for Ellie campaign — a charity set up in memory of Uist woman Eleanor MacDonald, who sadly died from cancer in 2014 aged just 23.