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Gran Fondo 2016: Cycling event's rich vein of history

From humble beginnings in scenic Italy, event has continued to grow into worldwide phenomenon

By Declan Bogue

Published 03/06/2016

Members of the Titanic Cycling Club prepared for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Members of the Titanic Cycling Club prepared for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Telegraph man Colin O'Carroll at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gran Fondo winners celebrate. Pic: Kevin Scott / Presseye
Lakeside Wheelers from Mullingar. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Brian Flynn from Waterford. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Sarah, Adele and Matthew Davidson from Newtownabbey. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Duncan Campbell of the Titanic Cycling Club. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Patrick Murphy from Waterford. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo winners on the podium. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Misia Rookigues and Gerard Magill. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Mark Kane winner of the Grand Fondo. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Stuart Millar from Newtownards and Lydia Murphy from Saintfield. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Hand and hand in the rain across the line. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Joe McAuley from Newtownabbey. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Rev John Dickinson from Carnmoney Presbyterian Church. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Jessica (8), Tom and Finley (3) Faulks from Lisburn. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Ryan Kane (6). Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Patrick O'Reilly and Johnny McBrien from Lisnaskea. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Three generations of the Kane Cycles family celebrate Marke Kanes win at the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon. Winner Mark Kane on right with his father Dave nephew Ryan and brother Paul ,(left) who finished second behind his brother.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Winner Mark Kane explains how he was injured with cuts on his arms and legs after coming off in a collision with a police motorbike escort near the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Winner Mark Kane with cuts on his arms and legs after coming off in a collission with a police escort motor cycle near the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Mark Kane wins the Mournes Run of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Joelene Browning from Lisburn. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan Stephen Roche at the start line. The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Paul Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the race leader of the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
First three finishers in the Strangford Route Keith Murphy (2nd), Chris McKeown (Winner) and Paul Mikugis (3rd). Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Chris McKeown winner of the Strangford Route of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Keith Murphy, who suffers from leukaemia, finished second in the Strangford Route of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Joelene Browning from Lisburn at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Jessica (8), Tom and Finley (3) Faulks from Lisburn at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gordon McKay at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Joe McAuley from Newtownabbey at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Alex McGreevy at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Cathir Doyle (13) from Magherafelt, winner of the NI Tourist Board race in the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Belfast Telegraph's Riona O'Kane and Lee Taylor at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Trudy Brown from Belfast saddles up for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Teresa Ramdi from Italy and Isabella Romoli from Dublin with the Giro DItalia trophy at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Charlie Stewart (5) from Ballynure at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Taveling in tamdem at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
At the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Read for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Thumbs up for the Mourne Route start at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Patrick O'Reilly and Johnny McBrien from Lisnaskea take a breather after the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Mary McCreesh and Grainne King from Co Fermannagh with their medals from the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Ryan Kane (6) at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
John McKeag (93) who worked as a welder at Harland and Wolff at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Hand and hand in the rain across the line at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
John McKeag (93) and his brother Milton McKeag (88) at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Mark Kane winner of the Grand Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Riders taking a corner during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Omagh Wheelers at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Keeping in touch during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gale Sergeant and Boris from Newtownabbey enjoying the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Starting off at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Off the line at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gearing up for the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Richie Port and Stephen Roche at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Stephen Roche moves to the start beside Richie Port at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Whiterock Wheelers checking the brakes ahead of the off at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Miaread McGurk and Samantha Convery of Carn Cycle Club at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
David Maguire came all the way from Sydney, Australia for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Denise Todd from Banbridge at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Members of the Dave Kane Cycle Club ahead of the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Checking the figures at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Orla Wright, Elaine O'Boyle and Rosemary O'Kane fro the Glenns Cycling Club at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia gets underway at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia heads out of the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia begins at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia heads out of the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.

Gran Fondo. What does it mean?

Not in a philosophical sense, but in a translation, it loosely means ‘Big Challenge'.

Gran Fondos are mass participation cycling events that have enjoyed incredible popularity in Europe for decades and have grown in North America, Asia, Australia and increasingly, worldwide.

Take a scenic, mountainous course and add several thousand cyclists ranging from pros to beginners. Mix in roving and fixed mechanical and medical support, feed zones manned by cheerful volunteers serving up healthy snacks, fruit, and drinks, and traffic halted at intersections to let you pass.

Garnish with enthusiastic and supportive spectators lining the course. Top it off with coverage by major cycling magazines. Energy, excitement and atmosphere — this is Gran Fondo, a phenomenon that took Italy by storm.

More: Gran Fondo 2016: Road closures for routes through Belfast to Strangford and the Mournes

The very first Gran Fondo was the Nove Colli, staged on July 12 in 1970 in Cesenatico, Italy.

This tradition has maintained to this very day, with a huge two-day event while the field has grown to accommodate 12,000 riders. They operate three distances — 80, 120 and 200 kilometres.

The introduction of chip timing led to an explosion of popularity in the 1990s with the growth of events in Italy. Nowadays there are over 100 events held between February and October, with the average participation numbers around 1,000.

While Northern Ireland’s cycling fraternity have been galvanised and given a higher profile by the visit of the Giro d’Italia in 2014, it was the turn of Netherlands a few weeks ago to be inspired.

Gran Fondo winners celebrate. Pic: Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo winners celebrate. Pic: Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo winners on the podium. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Lakeside Wheelers from Mullingar. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Brian Flynn from Waterford. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Sarah, Adele and Matthew Davidson from Newtownabbey. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Duncan Campbell of the Titanic Cycling Club. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Patrick Murphy from Waterford. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Misia Rookigues and Gerard Magill. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Mark Kane winner of the Grand Fondo. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Stuart Millar from Newtownards and Lydia Murphy from Saintfield. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Hand and hand in the rain across the line. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Joe McAuley from Newtownabbey. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Rev John Dickinson from Carnmoney Presbyterian Church. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Jessica (8), Tom and Finley (3) Faulks from Lisburn. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Ryan Kane (6). Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Patrick O'Reilly and Johnny McBrien from Lisnaskea. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Winner Mark Kane explains how he was injured with cuts on his arms and legs after coming off in a collision with a police motorbike escort near the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Winner Mark Kane with cuts on his arms and legs after coming off in a collission with a police escort motor cycle near the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Mark Kane wins the Mournes Run of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon.
Joelene Browning from Lisburn. Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Gran Fondo Giro DItalia Northern Ireland Sunday 21st June 2015 Titanic Quarter Belfast Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan Stephen Roche at the start line. The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 21/06/2015 Gran Fondo Giro The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland makes it's way back to the Titanic Quarter. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland - Titanic Belfast - 21 June 2015 Presseye Delan Roughan The Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland gets underway from the titanic slipway in Belfast. Some 3,000 riders headed off on either the Strangford route or the Mourne route.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Paul Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the race leader of the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia as it Passes through the Dromara Road close to Ballyroney in Banbridge Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 21st June 2015 - Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Northern Ireland Pictured is Winner Mark Kane during the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 21-6-2015 Three generations of the Kane Cycles family celebrate Marke Kanes win at the end of the Giro dItalia Gran Fondo at the Titanic slipway finishing line this afternoon. Winner Mark Kane on right with his father Dave nephew Ryan and brother Paul ,(left) who finished second behind his brother.
Gran Fondo winners after the day's racing. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Mark Kane, winner of the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
First three finishers in the Strangford Route Keith Murphy (2nd), Chris McKeown (Winner) and Paul Mikugis (3rd). Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Winner Mark Kane as he crosses the line at Titianic Quarter in Belfast during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Chris McKeown winner of the Strangford Route of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Keith Murphy, who suffers from leukaemia, finished second in the Strangford Route of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Telegraph man Colin O'Carroll at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Joelene Browning from Lisburn at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Jessica (8), Tom and Finley (3) Faulks from Lisburn at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gordon McKay at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Joe McAuley from Newtownabbey at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Alex McGreevy at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Cathir Doyle (13) from Magherafelt, winner of the NI Tourist Board race in the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Belfast Telegraph's Riona O'Kane and Lee Taylor at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Trudy Brown from Belfast saddles up for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Teresa Ramdi from Italy and Isabella Romoli from Dublin with the Giro DItalia trophy at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Charlie Stewart (5) from Ballynure at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Taveling in tamdem at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
At the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Read for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Thumbs up for the Mourne Route start at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Patrick O'Reilly and Johnny McBrien from Lisnaskea take a breather after the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Mary McCreesh and Grainne King from Co Fermannagh with their medals from the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Ryan Kane (6) at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
John McKeag (93) who worked as a welder at Harland and Wolff at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Hand and hand in the rain across the line at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
John McKeag (93) and his brother Milton McKeag (88) at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Mark Kane winner of the Grand Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Riders taking a corner during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Omagh Wheelers at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Keeping in touch during the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gale Sergeant and Boris from Newtownabbey enjoying the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Starting off at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Off the line at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Gearing up for the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Richie Port and Stephen Roche at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Stephen Roche moves to the start beside Richie Port at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Whiterock Wheelers checking the brakes ahead of the off at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Members of the Titanic Cycling Club prepared for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Miaread McGurk and Samantha Convery of Carn Cycle Club at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
David Maguire came all the way from Sydney, Australia for the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Denise Todd from Banbridge at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Members of the Dave Kane Cycle Club ahead of the start of the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Checking the figures at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
Orla Wright, Elaine O'Boyle and Rosemary O'Kane fro the Glenns Cycling Club at the Gran Fondo. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
The Gran Fondo gets underway at the Titanic slipway in Belfast. Presseye/Delan Roughan.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Buildup to the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia gets underway at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia heads out of the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia begins at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia heads out of the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.
Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia at the Titanic Slipways in Belfast. Pic: Kevin Scott /Presseye.

More: Gran Fondo 2016: Thousands get set for Titanic Belfast start

In cycling terms often left in the shadows of their more illustrious neighbours, Belgium, the first stage of the Giro earlier this month began in the Netherlands with an 8.1 kilometre time trial in Apeldoorn.

In terms of participation, cycling has always been incredibly popular in Holland, with the cliché that there are more bicycles than citizens. It is estimated that in cities such as the Hague and Amsterdam up to 70% of journeys are made on two wheels.

The flat lands and the picturesque scenery of windmills and small villages makes Holland a cyclists’ paradise. This culture has filtered down into public attitudes, where streets can be designated as predominantly cycling streets, with cars being considered ‘guests’.

In that kind of environment, cycling as a pastime and as a competition flourishes, and Gran Fondo is the ideal competition for cyclists of all abilities.

One of the greatest elements to Gran Fondo is the closed roads. Many Gran Fondos do not have this privilege, but the rich tradition of cycling in Italy means this is practically always guaranteed. In America, the Gran Fondo New York is staged with closed roads, leading to much controversy given how traffic operates in the Big Apple.

Chipped timing, and the ability to have certain sections such as hill climbs timed, adds to the appeal.

More: Gran Fondo 2016: Tickled pink by 2015’s everlasting memories

The emphasis of a lot of stages can veer towards one of ‘participation first, competition second’. They are not always necessarily races — some are competitive, but others are non-competitive rides.

A winner is typically declared in both types of race, but prizes will vary from a pat on the back to cash rewards.

The pool of riders will also vary. Some races attract sponsored pros or retired athletes, but most events will include everyone from casual riders looking for a challenge to aggressive weekend warriors working to smash their personal best.

Overall, Gran Fondos are known for their friendly atmosphere: a party on wheels, if you will. Cyclists get to gather with like-minded folk and enjoy the challenge of a long distance route, with luxuries like road closures and water stations.

Gran Fondo routes obviously vary depending on the geographical location of the event, but most courses tend to be quite scenic, meandering through placid countryside, along sparkling oceans or through treacherous mountainsides.

More: Clergyman vents his frustration as Gran Fondo road closures force church to cancel children's service

Some notable routes? La Marmotte in France involves a 5,180 metre (17,000 feet) climb, while the Gran Fondo Internazionale Girodana in Italy is feared by even Lance Armstrong – with or without whatever help he got along the way.

The intimate Gran Fondo Las Vegas is limited to 300 entrants and tackles some epic western scenery.

The French partake in Gran Fondos, although they call it ‘Cyclosportive.’ Other countries that host their own iterations of the event include Australia, Finland, South Africa and Sweden.

While riders of all levels are welcome, it is advisable to have had a fair bit of experience on the bike.

More: Gran Fondo Northern Ireland: Take a ride of the 2016 Strangford route

It’s not exactly a walk (or bike ride) in the park. Many training programmes exist, most of which require at least eight weeks of practice, with 14 to 16 weeks being preferable. In other words, don’t sign up the night before the event on a whim without having done some prep work. Your legs will never forgive you.

Most Gran Fondo events are seeded at the start to avoid bottlenecking, so beginner participants don’t have to worry about holding up a semi-pro rider. Still, with some events counting thousands of participants, riders can expect to get cosy with their neighbours.

So if you are heading out today on your bike in preparation, or reading this to get your buzz on for the big event, we wish you all the best. Stay safe on the road, and remember you are taking part in a proud cycling tradition.

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