Over 3,200 cyclists saddle up to turn NI Pink !
June 24 2015, Belfast
The inaugural Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Northern Ireland has taken place over the weekend of June 20/21 and it has been hailed as a huge success.
Titanic Belfast, the venue for the Giro d’Italia Big Start in 2014, was the main hub over the weekend which saw 3,200 cyclists and their friends and families arrive to collect their bib numbers, timing chips and Giro Gift bag on Saturday.
Sustran’s NI organized a “Picolo Fondo” with hundreds of children arriving on their bikes through the Gran Fondo finish line and the Street Velodrome was very popular with people of all ages. The sun was shining and the Italian feel good factor was high as riders sampled the Italian Fantini Wine and Menabrea beer with wood fired oven pizza from Scarpello & Co., a local gourmet pizza vendor.
The actual Giro d’Italia trophy, the “Trofeo Senza Fine” was on site all day, where long queues formed as riders and families wanted to get their picture taken with this iconic trophy.
Serious business started early on Sunday morning with the 173km Mourne Route starting at 07:30 and the 58km Strangford Route starting at 08:00. The sight of over 3,000 cyclists lined up in various grids on the Titanic Slipways was incredible. The mood was one of great expectation and what was to follow delivered in spades.
Normally Gran Fondo or sportives as they are known, do not draw many spectators. The official Giro d’Italia nature of this event and the fully closed roads make it unique in Britain and Ireland. The cyclists were greeted with pink balloons, decorated roundabouts and banners all along the route. The spirit of the Giro d’Italia was alive and kicking across both routes.
With Belfast man Mark Kane winning the 173km Gran Fondo event, there followed many hours of cyclists of different levels arriving, all with epic tales of their experiences cycling through spectacular scenery, up challenging climbs and through welcoming communities. The post ride gourmet pasta party was a site to behold – riders enjoyed pasta, Moy Park chicken parmigiana and pizza served with Menabrea beer and Fantini Wines. A very Italian way to end their day.
Global Stars Richie Porte and Stephen Roche were on hand to present the prizes at the Gran Fondo podium to the various category winners. It was fitting that Titanic Quarter Cycling Club, set up last year as a direct legacy of the Giro d’Italia Big Start, should win the Moy Park Team Giro first prize on the Strangford Route. Dave Kane Cycles won the Moy Park Team Giro for the Mourne Route.
Darach McQuaid of Shadetree Sports said: “We could not be more pleased with how the inaugural Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia NI turned out. Many months of planning with our key stakeholders meant a safe route for the riders and a well informed public in terms of our road closure plan. The atmosphere at Titanic Belfast over the weekend was magic. The Giro was back, in a different guise, but no less passionate. I would like to thank all of the riders for their determination and all of our sponsors and key stakeholders for their commitment and professionalism. The appetite for cycling in Northern Ireland is huge. We look forward to announcing details of the 2016 event soon.”
The Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia, partially funded by Tourism NI, is organised by Shadetree Sports, in association with RCS Sport.
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