A GROUP of female cyclists are preparing to take on a gruelling 500-mile, non-stop time trial through the Highlands in a bid to beat the record set by cyclist Mark Beaumont.

The seven women will cycle the North Coast 500 route later this month, aiming to beat the speed record for the route.

The event will mark the launch of a new cycling organisation, the Adventure Syndicate, which brings together extraordinary female cyclists who want to encourage other women to achieve their goals through mutual support and collective effort.

Former Scottish and UK mountain bike champion Lee Craigie is the brainchild behind the syndicate, which aims to offer diverse female sporting role models.

Ms Craigie said: "We feel it is time to present women in cycling in a different light. All too often, the physical appearance of a female athlete is the first thing that is considered, rather than her skill and ability.

"Less combative approaches to triumphing over challenges are rarely celebrated in the sporting world, or the world in general. It’s time these things changed."

The North Coast 500 is a challenging route with some punishing climbs, including the infamous Bealach na Ba above Applecross.

By the end, the cyclists will have climbed more than 10,000m of hills in total and will have pushed themselves to the limits of their physical endurance in a landscape prone to driving wind and rain, with little or no sleep along the way.

The team are urging others to support them during their record attempt next weekend, either by joining the riders for sections of the route, turning out to cheer them along the way, or following the attempt live online.

Ms Craigie added: "Between us we are champions, record-holders, award-winners, athletes, adventurers and explorers. We are also speakers, authors, teachers and learners – passionate about sharing our adventures with other people and inspiring them to set out on their own.

"But inspiration is only the first step. What sets the Adventure Syndicate apart is our commitment to encourage and enable women – and everyone else – to identify their ambitions, overcome the obstacles that stand in their way, and make the most of their talent and potential.

"We’ll do this by publishing what we are up to on our site, giving talks, running workshops, leading rides and answering questions. We are all capable of so much more than we think we are."

The live stream of the women's challenge, which takes place on May 14 and 15, can be found at www.theadventuresyndicate.com.