MORE than 1,000 riders set off from the scenic grounds of Blenheim Palace as part of a family cycling festival on Sunday.

The Blenheim Palace Sportive, held in support of Oxford charity Oxfam, is set to become an annual fixture according to organiser Eiger Events.

There were timed 60-mile and 100-mile routes through the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire Cotswolds, finishing back at the palace.

The event replaced Bike Blenheim, last held two years ago.

The first rider back was Ian Green, from Chard in Somerset.

He completed the 60-mile route in three hours and 40 minutes.

Mr Green, 50, said: “The roads were beautifully quiet, and we had a short sharp shower, but I enjoy cycling in the rain.

“The long final straight to the finish line was spectacular, with Blenheim Palace in the background and the sun finally out.

“It was great to ride down there alone knowing that the race was nearly over.”

Event spokesman Andy Townsend added: “The routes gave riders a rolling, hilly course to tackle, but I think most came through to the finish with smiles on their faces.

“And the family cycle day also proved a success.

“To see people of all ages and abilities on their bikes taking the unique opportunity to cycle in this historic estate was fantastic.”

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