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Gran Fondo 2015: Race results, finishing positions and timings

Fans line streets of towns and villages to cheer on riders

By Victoria O'Hara

Northern Ireland cyclists were in the pink yesterday as thousands took part in the Gran Fondo.

Results - 173km race - click here

Results - 58km race click here

Young and old got into the saddle for two routes - a 173km trek taking in the Mourne Mountains, and a shorter 58km one passing Strangford Lough.

Supporters lined the streets of towns and villages to cheer on more than 3,000 amateur road cyclists taking part in the two-day event, which finished at the Titanic Quarter in east Belfast.

Former Irish international star Mark Kane won the main race in tough weather conditions. His brother, Paul, was just minutes behind in second place.

Speaking afterwards, Mark said he hoped the Giro d'Italia spin-off event, which organisers said was the largest ever mass participation sporting event to be staged in Northern Ireland, would help cycling grow even more.

"It's great for cycling in Northern Ireland," he said. "I'm really pleased, after having to leave Northern Ireland and go to the continent to race, to come back here and have such a big event. It's just fantastic for me as a former international cyclist and an Olympian."

A fifth of those taking part hailed from outside Northern Ireland.

The Gran Fondo is a Giro d'Italia legacy event that was set up following the success of the Grande Partenza, or big start, in June last year. It is the first year Northern Ireland has hosted the Gran Fondo, but it will return in 2017 and 2018.

In the Strangford race, Chris McKeown from Greenisland crossed the line first. The 26-year-old married civil engineer said that although he had to fix his chain after coming off halfway through, he had a great time.

"It was a really good route," Chris added. "In your head, you have to believe in yourself, and you know there will be competition, but I just did my best."

Five months after being diagnosed with leukaemia, Keith Murphy, from Cookstown, achieved a personal victory and came second.

"After a round of treatment, it was just my goal to get back on the bike again," he said.

"The bike was like a rehab for me, so I used it throughout my treatment. I just kept putting the leukaemia thing behind me. I still get check-ups every couple of weeks, but the fact that things are going so well is just a great boost. I have a new lease of life."

Keith, who swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles and ran a marathon for the Lanzarote Ironman event just three weeks ago, added that he was determined to show there was life after cancer.

"The way I look at it is that I just want people who may have been diagnosed with cancer to know that there is life on the other side," he said. "There are a lot of people who get diagnosed and think it is the end. I fought the tiredness and was getting up every morning and getting on my bike instead of lying in bed"

The oldest participants were brothers John (93) and Milton (88) McKeag, who finished in just a little over five hours. "It was an achievement getting through it, but we both just love cycling," John said.

The retired welding instructor, from Dundonald, added: "I'm only out of hospital four weeks after an operation on my prostate. But it didn't put me off at all. I've been cycling for 88 years and running for 74 years. I've taken part in sport my whole life and just love the comradeship."

The PSNI thanked the public for their patience as roads used in the race routes were closed.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: "For those of you who had to alter plans or rethink your journey, thank you for your understanding and patience.

"This was a significant event for Northern Ireland, and yet again we have proved we are more than capable of hosting international events and doing them well."

Belfast Telegraph

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