Pros rest while Tour of Britain Sky Ride goes on!
Tired, cold, but still smiling, a group of more than 40 cyclists in blue jerseys arrived at Blackpool's Solarice Centre, having outshone Mark Cavendish's HTC-Highroad team strip in Stage Two of the Tour of Britain along Blackpool's blustery coastline.
The cyclists were taking part in a free community bike ride courtesy of Sky Ride Local, braving blinding sand storms and ear-whistling winds as Cav and his team were forced to rest owing to the backlash of hurricane Katia's severe gales.
Stewart Kellett, British Cycling's Director of Recreation and Partnerships, tested the route himself and said: "It was a huge challenge but so rewarding to see such a huge group of people enjoying their bikes despite the weather.
"The windforce at one stage was incredible, really challenging. I think we'll all be spending the rest of the day washing the sand out of our hair and ears!"
It was just one of dozens of rides taking place each week across the country until October as part of the Sky Ride Local programme - a series of free, local bike rides organised by British Cycling and Sky in a bid to encourage a million more people onto their bikes by 2013.
The ride, run in partnership with Blackpool City Council and led by British Cycling trained Ride Leaders from across the north west, attracted Tour of Britain fans as well as enthusiastic cyclists wishing to embrace the elements.
Having battled winds of up to 50mph, at 12.30pm the group arrived back at Blackpool Solarice Centre still cheerful, and were rewarded for their efforts with cups of free coffee courtesy of the centre's cafe staff.
Looking satisfied and sipping from a well-deserved steaming hot cup, Stewart Kellett praised the riders for their exceptional achievement. He said:
"Most of the riders had never met each other and were hopping on their bikes for fun but there was a real team spirit on the day. Everyone feels they've had a good time and achieved something.
"It was even better to know that Cav was probably resting up but we still gave it a go. I think a few of the spectators were confused to see cyclists on the route, but they cheered us on regardless."
Asked why Sky Ride Local is helping to get more people onto bikes, and Stewart says:
"Sky Ride Local really brings communities together. I met one lady today who'd travelled all the way from York after getting up at 5.30am to take part. It's the fun and the spirit that make our rides so special and British Cycling has rides running all over the country until the end of October."