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As he gears up for the start of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series, Scottish downhill specialist and 2020 world champion Reece Wilson is urging more riders – and outdoors enthusiasts of all kinds – to visit his homeland in the ‘world class’ but often overlooked Scottish Borders.

Against the backdrop of cycling and staycations being increasingly popular in the wake of the global pandemic, Wilson is acting as an ambassador for the Borders and wider South of Scotland to help bring more visitors to the area as it recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

The 25-year-old from the Borders became world champion in 2020 and is ranked as one of the world’s top five riders. As he prepares to battle it out for the number one spot, Wilson stars in a new video celebrating the Borders as part of the Scotland Starts Here campaign to promote the South of Scotland.

The South of Scotland region is home to renowned 7stanes mountain biking hotspots of Innerleithen and Glentress, and also Dumfries & Galloway, which also boasts 7stanes trails such as Kirroughtree and Forest of Ae. The wider South of Scotland region also offers superb locations for the increasingly popular sport of gravel biking as well as road cycling.

He said: “I’m fortunate that I get to travel all over the world for races, but every time I come home to the Scottish Borders I have a new appreciation of the mountain biking here and this beautiful place I get to call home.

“When it comes to mountain biking, it doesn’t get much better than the Scottish Borders, it’s a world-class environment. There’s something for riders of any age and ability here, from the more technical trails in Innerleithen to the flowing family-friendly routes of Glentress.

Wilson first honed his skills on a mountain biking course at Borders College before going on to compete all over the world. While Scotland’s reputation for wet weather is sometimes seen as a negative, Wilson says the muddy mountain bike trails in the Scottish Borders helped him become world champion and are a must-visit for mountain bikers of all levels.

“It maybe doesn’t have the sun all the time, but riding in muddy conditions actually helped me become world champion. When I won the World Championships in Austria, it was really wet and that played into my favour. Speaking to other top riders around the UK and the world, I know that a quite a few of them are keen to come and train here in the Borders and see if they can improve their skills.”

More than mountain biking

While the Borders is renowned for its mountain biking, the wider South of Scotland region also offers superb locations for the increasingly popular sport of gravel biking. In neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway, the Galloway Forest Park has become a leading destination for gravel biking with the area hosting the international Raiders Gravel Galloway event in 2022. With its undulating, quiet roads and multiple routes, The South is also popular with road cyclists

Beyond biking, Wilson is also a keen golfer and a passionate advocate of getting outside to improve wellbeing. He said: “I think everyone has to be conscious of spending more time outside for their physical and mental health. I love being outdoors, I get ants in my pants when I’m inside. When I’m not riding my bike, I spend a lot time walking and playing golf and there’s no better place to do that and get away from it all than the Borders.

“We’re losing a lot of places around the world that are like this that are so natural, untouched and green. I feel really lucky to have grown up in the Borders and have this kind of scenery on my doorstep. There are endless opportunities here to get outside and have adventures.

“I’d definitely encourage more people to come and visit the Borders and the South of Scotland. I think a lot of people come up from the south and perhaps pass through the Borders on their way somewhere north, but there’s so much to discover here – when you spend some time here it will definitely give you something back.”

“I’ve thought about moving elsewhere, but every time I come home, I realise how much I absolutely love the Borders. I’m here for life.”

Tue 8th Mar, 2022 @ 9:30 pm

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