A CHILLY autumn morning greeted the hundreds of women who gathered for a bike ride with a difference in Tatton Park on Sunday.

About 800 women took part in Cycletta Cheshire and for many of them it was the first time they had taken part in a cycling event.

But the early morning mists cleared along with the apprehension as October sunshine stole across the park and the surrounding country lanes, bursting into glorious warmth as participants made it back to the finish line.

This year’s event was my second and also marks roughly a year since I got back on a bike as an adult.

Last year I tackled the 40K women-only challenge on a mountain bike belonging to a friend’s husband and managed the course in just under two hours.

But cycling is addictive and I have been well and truly bitten by the bug.

I’ve got myself a road bike (the ones with the curly handlebars) and go out on it as often as I can – amusing my colleagues by cycling into work every now and then (when it’s not raining of course). I managed the 40K in about an hour and a half this year, crossing the finish line just behind none other than Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton MBE herself, who tore past me on the final bend.

Granted, Victoria, who has joined the nationwide Cycletta initiative when it started last year, had probably been around the course a number of times by that point, boosting everyone taking part, but what a great story to tell!

Victoria, currently competing in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, said: “I’ve been involved with Cycletta since it started with just two events in 2011.

“I am passionate about this series and the opportunity it gives women to feel comfortable and excited about getting on their bikes. It’s amazing to see how much Cycletta has grown, with events now taking place all over the country.

“There are many reasons why women should get out on their bikes, whether it’s to keep fit, to socialise or of course, like so many women here today, to raise money for a good cause like Macmillan Cancer Support. Sometimes cycling events can feel intimidating, particularly if you haven’t been on a bike for years and that’s exactly what Cycletta aims to change.

“So many of the women here today are completely new to this, which is what makes these events so special.”

Cycletta, which also included a 55K ‘challenge’ distance this year, is definitely not intimidating, with a clear route along quiet roads and lanes and friendly marshals manning the junctions and the much-needed treat stops.

It’s a great route too, taking in the countryside surrounding Knutsford and the picturesque villages of Ashely, Mobberley and Little Warford.

Teams of fundraisers also took to their bikes, with a group raising money for the event’s official charity Macmillan Cancer Support and a team from mid Cheshire charity St Luke’s Hospice.

And treats were in store back at the finish line, with the Cycletta village offering massages, nail painting and helmet hair remedies, a nice touch for those cyclists rounding off the morning with a well-earned Sunday lunch.