IT is one of the Lake District’s toughest endurance challenges, which once again proved to be a huge hit. More than 2,500 cyclists headed to the county to take part in the annual Fred Whitton Challenge.

Starting and finishing in Grasmere, riders took on a punishing route of about 114 miles which took them through the heart of the Lakes.

Cyclists passed by the picturesque sites of Calderbridge, Ennerdale Bridge, Loweswater and Lorton before heading towards Buttermere and Borrowdale.

From there riders rode along Derwentwater towards Keswick, then on to Troutbeck, past Ullswater and then south on to Ambleside and back to a finish in Grasmere.

The course is famous for taking in a number of Lakes passes, with climbs going over Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes.

Sunday’s event was hailed as another success by those involved.

Paul Loftus MBE, president of the Fred Whitton Challenge, said: “It’s not a ride in the park, it is really hard. It went according to plan; the weather couldn’t have been better.”

The event has grown rapidly since being set up after Fred Whitton, a popular member of the Lakes Road Club, died aged 50 in 1998.

Barrow MP John Woodcock was one of those taking part and he tweeted: “I did it! Slow as a tortoise, but a hill climbing tortoise l (most of the hills - people who can get up Hardknott have some strange superpower). What a fabulous day - so impressed by the organisers

n Two female cyclists were airlifted to hospital after they came off their bikes while taking part in the challenge.

Emergency services rushed to Wrynose Pass in the Lake District shortly before 5pm.

One was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital and the other to The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough - both suffered injuries including neck and spinal.

Some road closures were put in place in the area while police dealt with the incident. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.