Kerry MacPhee races north through extreme conditions

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« Like the rest of the world, this time of the year is a relatively quiet time for a cyclist. Races and battles for cyclocross podiums take a back seat as we look towards the impending mountain bike season. For me, the focus turns to laying down a solid base of long miles and endurance.

After the Scottish Cyclocross Champs in December, I turned my attention to my road bike and kicked off a block of big miles with a customary and popular festive 500! The aim is simply to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year. This is the first year I’ve actually participated officially and I wasn’t too optimistic due to the fact that I would be spending Christmas on the most Westerly edge of Europe in the Outer Hebrides.

Lady Luck was on my side and the challenge started positively with a fairly calm, cold and typically blustery 70 mile ride from South Uist to Benbecula, to Eriskay and then back home. Great… 120km, down 380km to go! Besides one aborted ride into the jaws of a Uist blizzard, I totalled a comfortable 300km in the 3 days I spent at home.

From here I headed for the opposite side of Scotland to Wick for New Year. I’d never been up here before. On one clear, freezing cold day prior to Hogmanay, we took on John o’ Groats, Thurso, Dunnet Head and many other spectacular coastal splendours in the North East of Scotland. Wonderful!

When I pedal to John o’ Groats between islands and causeways for three days, it’s these moments that  I realise what a privilege it is to be a cyclist and see Scotland from a slower and involved perspective. Despite being layered up to the max, it was very cold and I looked like a bank robber with my buff and sunglasses covering my face. The freshness was invigorating, the quiet roads were a joy to take in and the sights free of summer tourists were just stunning. By Hogmanay I had 18k to go to complete the challenge and the warmth of the fire drawing me in… who starts a challenge and doesn’t finish?! Not me! The 30km loop I chose was torture on the way out, with the wind reducing me to barely 9mph but you know that at some stage that wind will hit your back and what a great way to finish the Festive 500… I flew all the way back to Wick. It was so windy and I had one big cheeser on my face knowing I finished 2017 as I wanted 2018 to be- motivated, happy and smiling… oh and riding my bike fast!  »  – Kerry Macphee


Kerry MacPhee is a professional mountain biker from the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.  The first woman athlete to represent the islands in the Commonwealth Games – and only the second islander to be so honoured.  Kerry Macphee receives financial and dietary support from Loch Duart Salmon in her attempt to win in the mountain bike event in the European Championships in Glasgow August 2018.