Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Countess of Wessex starts 450-mile cycle from Edinburgh

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Media captionThe challenge marks the 60th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme

The Countess of Wessex admitted to having some nerves as she started a 450-mile palace-to-palace bike ride from Edinburgh.

The countess is cycling from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Buckingham Palace.

The challenge is in support of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award as the scheme celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Prince Philip and her husband Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, waved the countess off on the Diamond Challenge.

Pretty daunting

She said the route was a daunting prospect and added: "Standing here right now, I am very nervous. The prospect of the 450 miles is pretty daunting.

"I've been very fortunate to be supported by a lot of family and friends, and I'm incredibly grateful to everybody who's actually supported me. I'm hugely grateful."

She has cycled almost 3,000 miles, including cycling on her static bike at Balmoral, Aberdeenshire, in preparation for the charity challenge.

Rachel McKenzie, a physical training instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, has been putting the royal through her paces and is joining her on the trip, which will take about seven days to complete.

The countess said: "I've been very lucky that a PTI from Sandhurst has been pushing me around quite a lot of hills and lanes of Hampshire, and all sorts of places actually.

"It's been a lot of hard work, a lot of early mornings and many hours in the saddle."

The countess also told how she got into watching cycling at the time of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and later the London 2012 Olympics.

Image copyright PA

"They were all so inspirational and exciting," she said.

"But I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would then end up by doing this.

"It wasn't something that made me want to get on to the bike.

"It was only when I was deciding what challenge I was going to do that I ended up choosing cycling, but it was more by accident than design."

The countess is joined by six team members including riders drawn from the four Royal regiments she is linked to - 5th Battalion The Rifles, RAF Wittering, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and Corps of Army Music. The team also includes members from the Army Physical Training Corps and Boardman bikes.

Before the ride set off, Prince Philip and Prince Edward met young people who have completed their own Diamond Challenges in the award scheme's 60th year.

Prince Philip set up the award programme in 1956, inspired by his headmaster Kurt Hahn and his school days at Gordonstoun, Moray.

It has become one of the best-known self-development and adventure schemes for 14 to 24-year-olds, with around 2.5 million awards achieved in the UK since its inception.

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