A Kirkcaldy cyclist showed remarkable pedal power to finish first female in one of the world’s most rigorous bike races.
Gillian Pratt topped the women’s category at the Strathpuffer 24 - an endurance event in the Scottish Highlands - which featured in US Bike Magazine’s top 10 toughest mountain bike tests on the planet.
The annual race challenges cyclists to complete as many laps as possible through Torrachilty Forest, near Strathpeffer, over a 24 hour period, often through sub zero temperatures, ice, snow and wind.
Approximately 1200 cyclists took part over the weekend of January 17 and 18, and Gillian (32) produced a superhuman effort to clinch the ladies title, and 16th place overall.
“I’m extremely chuffed to have won it,” she told the Press.
“At the time it was weird because it didn’t really sink in.
“But I’ve had so many messages from people I don’t even know.
“I can’t believe the response.”
The former Kirkcaldy High School pupil took up competitive cycling in her late 20s and has claimed two Scottish Masters titles racing for Team Leslie Bike Shop.
“I’ve been doing cross-country racing for the past few years but I decided to set myself a different challenge,” Gillian said.
“That’s where the Strathpuffer 24 came into it.
“I’d heard a lot of people speaking about it, so decided that was what my challenge was going to be.
“I followed a training programmee for 12 weeks leading up to it, which kept my mind busy, so I hadn’t really thought about the fact I’d be cycling for 24 hours.
“I did better than I thought I would through the night. Something just motivated me to keep going.
“The majority of the trail was snow and ice - but you just had to pedal through it.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve done.
“I trained quite well for it so I’d prepared my legs. It was all in the mind.
“It was a mental and emotional thing - a mixture of everything that I’ve never had to deal with before in any race.
“I didn’t go into it to win it - I just wanted to complete it and do the best I could for the team and sponsors, who are brilliant.”
Gillian hopes that her success can encourage more women to take up competitive cycling.
“It’s a shame because there’s not very many women taking part,” she said.
“There are always so many more guys - so my categories aren’t really that highly contended.
“That’s why I stepped up to Expert/Elite level last year to go up against faster ladies - some of them are training for the Commonwealth Games.”
Anyone interested in learning more about opportunities for female cyclists in Fife can contact Gillian via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.