Chris Boardman has shed more blood sweat and tears in his lifetime than most people.
The 47-year-old cyclist took gold in the individual pursuit at the 1992 Olympics. He broke the world hour record – the most prestigious in all of cycling – no less than three times, swapping back and forth with Scot Graeme Obree throughout the 1990s in one of the most thrilling rivalries in British sport.
The Liverpudlian has worn the leader’s yellow jersey of the Tour de France on three separate occasions.
And in a fortnight he’ll be coming to Pitlochry to take part in the Etape Caledonia as ambassador for the charity cycle.
This won’t be the first time he’s joined 5,000 cyclists on the 81-mile route and he can’t wait to line up again.
“I did it in 2014,” he says. “I just went there because I heard about it and thought I’d enjoy the ride.
“I ended up getting put up the front and photographed, then they asked me to be ambassador for it this time.”
The circular route starts and finishes in Pitlochry, sweeping round Kinloch Rannoch and over the shoulder of Schiehallion along the way.
“The Etape Caledonia is almost cheating really,” Boardman chuckles. “You’re up there in the mountains with all that glorious scenery but the majority of the route runs along the lochside. It does get a bit harder towards the end but for the most part you can enjoy it without suffering it.”
During his last effort, Boardman had an unusual method of distracting himself from the pain: “I was looking at for sale signs along the way,” he reveals.
“I have a huge affinity for Scotland and spend several months of the year there. I’ve now bought a croft in the Cairngorms. It doesn’t yet have a roof or a road to it – but one thing at a time…”
Being able to go virtually wherever he pleases is chief among the reasons he spends so much time in Scotland.
“I think Scots perhaps take right to roam for granted,” he said.
“It’s an incredible thing, actually and one of the main reasons I love Scotland so much. I was in Wales last week and saw loads of mountains I wanted to climb but some of them I can’t because of landowners.
Getting stuck in
“I love that in Scotland if I see a forestry track or a mountain I can get on my bike and get stuck in.
“At the moment I’m working out my off-road route from Pitlochry to Aviemore after the Etape.”
Boardman’s cycling career was brought to an early end by an unexpected medical diagnosis: “I’ve got osteopenia, which is the precursor to osteoporosis,” he reveals.
“It’s why I retired from professional cycling. It’s not at all debilitating – it just means my bones will break more easily and most of the time I’m not even aware that I have it.”
He’s now a successful businessman – a range of Boardman bikes bear his name – and carries out media work as a pundit for the BBC and ITV.
He says he is itching to tackle the Etape Caledonia once more but fans looking for a glimpse of the cycling legend shouldn’t look for him at the front of the pack.
“I certainly won’t be going for a time, I’ll be enjoying myself,” he insists.
“In 2000 when I retired I told myself I wasn’t ever going to have a number on my back again. I do it purely for pleasure these days.”
The Courier is a media partner to the Etape Caledonia.
General entries for this year’s event on May 8 are sold out. However, riders can still get Marie Curie 400 Club places left for those who pledge to raise £400 in sponsorship. These cost £30.