Northern Ireland

Gran Fondo: Thousands completed the race through Belfast and County Down

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Media captionThousands compete in second Gran Fondo event

Thousands competed in the Gran Fondo cycling race through Belfast and County Down on Sunday.

The event is a legacy of the Giro D'Italia race, part of which was staged in Northern Ireland in 2014.

It began in Belfast at 07:00 BST and split into two separate routes - the main one through the Mourne mountains and the other towards Strangford Lough.

The race was won by Mark Kane of Dave Kane Cycling Club.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The event began in Belfast before splitting into two separate routes through County Down

Laura Wylie was the first female cyclist to finish.

A large police operation was in place and hundreds of volunteers helped to marshal the event, however, many drivers experienced long delays and disruption along the route.

Last year, the organisers were criticised by motorists who complained about being caught up in lengthy traffic delays.

Image caption The Gran Fondo started at Belfast's Titanic quarter, just as it did in 2015

Organiser Darach McQuaid said the two rides went "superbly" and praised police for their efforts in managing traffic along the route.

"Clearly we have disrupted some people and we apologise for that but I think it's a big success for Northern Ireland to be able to attract an event of this size," he said.

"We've done our utmost to promote the gateways we devised to allow people to cross the route at safe times.

Image caption 4,000 cyclists took part in the event

"The pre-promotion that we did, whilst it may not have reached absolutely everybody, we're pretty sure the people of Northern Ireland were aware of the event in advance and made alternative arrangements."

Mr McQuaid said he was surprised by the level of public support for the event.

Image caption Organiser Darach McQuaid said he was impressed by the level of public support

"I've been hearing from the route about people having prosecco parties in their gardens and festooning their trees in pink balloons," he said.

"We have 4,000 riders this year compared to 3,200 last year, so that's an impressive growth.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Amateur and professional cyclists raced together in the Gran Fondo

"We also have more riders from throughout the world - Australia, Malaysia, Canada, America and all over Europe."

The race, which began at Belfast's Titanic quarter on Sunday morning, finished at the same location at about 16:00 BST.

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