ULTRA-ENDURANCE athlete Mark Beaumont has given his backing to a new long-distance cycling event which he hopes will encourage more women to take up the sport.

The Women’s Tour of Scotland will stretch over three days in August and is the first of its kind to be set up before a men’s equivalent.

It also offers parity of prize money.

Beaumont, the fastest person ever to cycle around the world, said: “The tour has the power to inspire more women to uncover the benefits of cycling both recreationally and competitively.

“With women on average currently cycling less than men in the UK, I’m very keen to help address the imbalance.”

ONS research from last year shows cycling has the second greatest gender gap when it comes to how people commute, with men making up 74% of those who get to work on a bike.

Beaumont believes the race could encourage more women in Scotland to start riding a bike regularly.

He is calling on the public to watch the closing stages of the race in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park on Sunday August 11, and get a free go on one of the city’s new hire bikes.

A scheme by Just Eat Cycles will see 350 free day passes handed out on the tour’s final day in the capital.

The 36-year-old added: “Edinburgh’s new bike hire scheme makes it really easy for those new to or inexperienced with cycling to have a go.

“It’s my hope that as many people as possible get down to Holyrood Park next month to cheer on the athletes and try one of the hire bikes for free.”

Beaumont joins Gail Porter as a fellow ambassador and Scottish racing cyclist Eileen Roe, who is also commentating during the event.

Sixteen of the world’s leading elite teams will take part, with Great Britain team-mates Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker set to compete against each other.

The event begins in Dundee on August 9 and finishes in Edinburgh on August 11.

Its route also passes through Dunfermline, Perth and Glasgow.